Reflection on my new state of quadragenarianism

Now that I am a quadragenarian (that is, 40-years-old on the Roman calendar “approved” by the guy in the pointy hat), some have wondered if my family and I are going to do anything “super special” today.

The short — and long — answer is “no.”  🙂 We’ve never done much for birthdays and generally believe the practice of practically worshiping someone on the anniversary of their birth is of pagan origins, which we strive to avoid.  However, that doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to recognize an anniversary, let alone one that is considered a milestone in one’s culture, and I appreciate the two nice cards that my wife and sons had for me this morning (as well as the warm greetings many folks have shared).  However, outside of the opening of a couple of envelopes upon getting out of bed, the vast majority of today will be like most other days — full of pastoral counselin’, church administerin’, summer camp plannin’, and — as this indicates — occasional bloggin’.  (Though some baptismal counseling is in there, too, so that does make the day pretty special in one very important way, I must say!)

But I have been more reflective than usual, today.  Acts 7 says that Moses was forty when he “visit[ed] his brethren” and made the mistake that moved him to flee Egypt to Midian, where he would tend sheep for another forty years followed by a final forty years of tending God’s sheep.  Joshua Caleb (thanks, again, CM!) was forty when Moses asked him to spy out the land.  While there aren’t a vast horde of highlighted forty-year-olds in the Bible (I’m not sure off the top of my head if there are others), these two came to mind readily today.

Actually, I was already reflective (it is Passover season, after all), but CM wrote me a message earlier that added a very clarifying question to that reflection (thanks, CM!): “Doing what you are doing, and going the way you are going, what will you find at 50?”

I think that is an excellent way to ask an important question — akin to how Dr. Winnail phrased such things in the “Christian Living” LU class I took the first year, but more focused, perhaps, for a narrower purpose.

I’m tempted to look back ten years to thirty (my entry into tricenarianism, or should it be trigenarianism?), and I ask myself: Would I have pictured this at forty?  Picturing this profession ten years ago is out of the question — I was an actuary with a few years under my belt and was enjoying my work thoroughly.  I had a two-year-old son and a seven-month-0ld son, and a dear wife who loved me, all of us living in a rented apartment in Texas.  Now, I have a 12-year-old son, a 10-year-old son, an eight-year-old son, and a six-year-old son, and a dear wife who loves me, all of us living in a rented house in Missouri.

Still, those are just the facts.  How much have I really grown since thirty?  Am I closer to God?  Am I more teachable than I was then?  How many of my sinful or unhelpful habits have I allowed Christ in me to eliminate or reduce?  How many of those habits remain or, even worse, have deepened?  To what extent is the fruit of the Spirit more abundantly found on my branches compared to me-at-thirty — and what branches are still waiting for ten years on to finally bloom and bud with them?

That will be a profitable reflection, methinks (and one that I will work out in private instead of on the Internet, thank you very much!), but not so profitable as reflecting on CM’s question: Given my current trajectory, where will I land at fifty if that trajectory goes unaltered?  And how will that trajectory affect those riding with me over the next ten years?

After all, the past we cannot change, whereas the future we are constantly and continuously creating, moment by moment.

Thanks, CM, for your well-worded question!  The evening of March 28 rapidly approaches, and — for all of us — I hope that these days leading up to this year’s Passover are the sort of reflective days they need to be for us to become the most powerful instruments we can be in God’s hands (Romans 6:13).  The days ahead of us will require us to be such.

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14 thoughts on “Reflection on my new state of quadragenarianism

  1. Wait until you reach your Jubilee, as I did last summer. You’ll think yourself at 40 as a spring chicken by comparison. 🙂 And that isn’t necessarily all bad. 😀

  2. Steve

    Ehoing Rakkav, yeah, wait until you hit 50. That’s when you really start to feel it.

    That’s when you start asking yourself, “where did the time go?” And “why does the world keep speeding up, and I keep slowing down?”

    Of course, my 80 something mother would simply laugh at my complaint of getting older…

    Make the most of the time we have. That’s the lesson.

  3. Hey Mr. Smith,

    No offense, but I think I’ll have to hold fast to what I was taught concerning the whole birthday thingamabob… although, I am glad you made it another year; to coin a phrase 😉

    I think I heard Dr. Meredith say that 40 was the number of trial and test in a Bible study, or sermon one time. On Biblical occurrences with the number 40, one other thing does come to mind: Isaac was 40 when he took the damsel, Rebekah, to wife.

    Tell the family hello for me…


  4. Hey, Deano —

    You and me were taught the same thing about that birthday thingamabob, and I hope that we are both holding fast to it!

    I’d forgotten about Isaac — thanks for that one. And will do on the “howdy-dos” to the family, as requested!

    Take care,
    Wally Smith

  5. @Richard: The problem is that the Bible always counts one’s chronological age (in calendar years, which differ from ours) from birth, not from conception, even though it also counts an unborn child as being fully human and life as beginning at conception. That sounds like a perfectly sensible way of reckoning. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 🙂

    I’d have to look up just where, but putting two verses at least together, it turns out that one of the 70 who went down to Egypt in Jacob’s party was not yet born yet was counted as part of the 70 (and by the name she obtained at birth in Egypt, for that matter).

  6. Zono Riggs

    As usual you waxed the Elephant well, but the shining point of the polished oration was not missed by me. Stay the course my son and Dan.12:3 applies to you.
    Love, Mom

  7. Thanks, Mom! And thanks, Mr. Wheeler. It makes sense to measure one’s age from a definite moment in time (birth) as opposed to what can often only be guessed (conception). And if the number we assign to age is an indication of position in time relative to birth as opposed to length, we get the joy of knowing there was a date when most of us were -9 months in age. 🙂

    As for the “1 of 70,” that would be a neat thing to know and sounds new to me. Let me know if you ever track those verses down.

  8. Craig

    Young Sir, I have a question for you. Don’t you mean Caleb and not Joshua who was 40 when Moses sent him to spy out the land? Caleb said he was 40, according to Joshua 14:7 & 10.

    According to Joshua 24:29, Joshua died at age 110. It is my understanding this was some 46 years after spying out the land. That would make him about 64 at the time.

    May you live long and prosper. 😉

  9. Not yet, he ain’t. 😀

    Compare Genesis 46:8-15 and Numbers 26:59. The sons, daughters and grandchildren of Leah listed in the first section number 32, but the total number cited is 33. The second passage gives the 33rd: Levi’s daughter Jochebed, “who was born to Levi in Egypt”, and yet is counted among those who went down to Egypt with Jacob’s household.

    It is hard to imagine such a retroactive counting unless everybody clearly understood that while chronology begins at birth, life begins at conception.

  10. If not the heliocentric metric, how about 12 x 10^8 seconds (plus a bunch more). It’s geocentric. Why a divisor of 60, instead of something sensible like 10, or even 16?

  11. @Lyndell: Uh, that divisor was perfectly sensible…to the Babylonians, who worked with base 3600. It allowed and still allows one to track astronomical time very closely, correlating the yearly motion of the sun in the sky to the visible diameter of the sun in the sky (among other things). Apparently when one took what Dr. Ken Herrmann called the concept of “day-grees” in his Ph.D. thesis, as the ancient Hindus did, such a base was very useful for tracking planetary positions even after the Flood.

    Of course, no doubt the base 3600 system worked better when the year ws 360 days long and had 12 months (cf. the chronology durng the Flood). 3600 has all kinds of neat “harmonic ratios” embedded in it which can be worked out geometrically with a compass and straightedge (and which often have musical significance as well). You can’t do that nearly so easily with a base 10 system of measurement; that has another set of strengths and weaknesses.

    One can’t argue arbitrarily – about anything humanly invented – that one method of working is more “sensible” than another. For every strength there is a weakness, and for every weakness, a strength. Even the heliocentric system has its advantages – coming up with a simple construct for defining Newtonian physics just isn’t one of them. 😀

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