This last summer my wife and I were talking about birthdays and the fact that she and a few of our friends were all turning 40 this summer. It was at one point in the conversation that she said, “If we’re not getting older, then we’re not getting older.” It took a bit for her statement to register in my dense brain, but once it did, my mind was opened to my typical thought process of “living today” and “living like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else.”
Beyond Karen and a couple of friends turning 40, we have another friend turning 50. I remember my dad turning and some of the talk and “feeling” at that point in time. I have only hit one real milestone birthday of 40, and have a few more to go, but have been able to watch others hit those second half of life birthdays. We can all think of someone who may have struggled with a 40th or 50th, or 60th birthday. I recently even talked with a lady who had turned 80, and as she said, “None of the others bothered me, but 80 bothered me.” The older we get, the less emotion we look back on the younger milestone birthdays with. And think, “40, or 50, that was nothing.” Regardless of the milestone year, birthdays can often make people stumble. Even today, I spoke with a friend of mine who's son turned 30 over the weekend. His own birthdays don't bother him, but his son turning 30 kind of got to him.They can make us sit down and reflect on life’s past, but the “stumble” part comes from the fact that we begin to think about death. We begin to think about when our father died or mother died, and have we reached that age yet. We think about if we hit the age at which a parent died, and if it is our year to be called above. We think about if we turn 40 or 50, “man, my life is half over, I’ve only got half left.”
For some, the thought is with death in mind or the end is coming. But guess what, the end is coming for all of us. It is a fact, and proven by research, that we all have a 100% probability of dying! So know that we know this, we need to all shift our thoughts from living with death in mind to living with life in mind! Life was meant to be lived with a great purpose. But purpose will not come and find you. We must get up and move to find more purpose. Life was meant to be lived as fully as possible for each of us. We must train the part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, to fire up and block out the emotional center of our brain, the amygdala, that produces the negative “life is half over or life is almost over” emotion.
Each of us was created to do work that matters regardless of our current age. We must look to continue the stimulation of our mind, body, and soul to serve, to be generous, and to do some work that matters to us. We are all going to grow old, that’s a fact. But as General Douglas MacArthur said, “Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.” So what interests you!? You can’t give up interest in the things you love, the people you love, the work you love to do! Your soul is begging you to not give up the interest, and so is God.
I’m reminded of a few more quotes on life to leave you with. The first is by past President George W. Bush I was lucky enough to hear at a leadership conference a few years ago as he was discussing his life and his dad’s life when he quipped, “The idea is to die young as late as possible.” It took a while for this one to register in my brain like my wife’s, but how true is that. We must keep our soul interested so that our soul has an interest in living.
The next one is from a man that lived about as full of a life as possible but was taken way to soon. He lived a life of purpose helping many. He lived selflessly by being a super generous man helping many. And he pursued life with a passion, once saying, “There are two ways to view life. Those who protect it or those who pursue it.” Shane Stimatze
And if you are struggling with what to do today, simply do one thing every morning. Ask God, “What do you need me to do today?” This morning started perfectly! It’s fresh, clean, and your soul is begging you to live it! Go live it!