“How old do you feel?”
My friend Lisa posed this question to the four of us sitting around the restaurant table. As moms of young children, we were out enjoying an evening that felt like like heaven to weary women that seldom went anywhere without kids in tow. It was our tradition, these birthday dinners. For each one of our birthdays, we would go out and celebrate. Four sacred evenings a year to which we always looked forward.
” I feel like I am 22,” said one.
“I feel like I am 28, ” said another
“Yes, 22 feels about right.” It was a consensus. The 20’s won.
Mind you, we were all in our early thirties at the time, and obviously the pattern was that each felt younger than they actually were, until it was my turn to answer.
“I feel forty.”
“What?!” was their collective response.
“I have felt 40 for a long time.”
Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was married at 19, and simultaneously became a youth pastor’s wife with other people’s children in our care. Maybe it’s that I became a teacher at 20 and parents would ask me advice about their children. Maybe it’s because I have always been hyper responsible and an old soul at heart. I am not sure what it is, but I have long awaited my 40th birthday so that my birth age would match the way that I feel. I am looking forward to turning 40.
And tomorrow, that day will have arrived.
I am not really expecting any fan fare or big celebration, just a inner knowing that this is a meaningful day to me personally. I have really tried to examine why I have felt such anticipation for this season of my life. Then it struck me.
Forty is a significant number to God. In scripture, a time period of 40 (days, weeks, months, years) always indicates a time of probation for His people, a time of waiting, preparation, and testing. It is not always an enjoyable experience, but after the time of 40 is complete, a season of blessing and renewal typically follows.
- It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, the floods subsided, and then Noah stepped out to a fresh land and a rainbow signifying a promise. (Gen. 7:4)
- Moses was 40 years old when he visited his people, the Israelites in Egypt (Acts 7:23). He then fled to the desert for 40 more years (Acts 7:30), and then God commissioned him to free His people from the hand of Pharaoh.
- When Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God, he stayed there 40 days and 40 nights, and then God gave him His commandments. (Deut. 9:9-11)
- Joshua was 40 years old when he was sent into Kadesh Barnea to explore the promised land. He did so for 40 days and 40 nights, and then returned to Moses with enthusiasm for this land flown with milk and honey. (Joshua 14:7) (Numbers 13:25)
- The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, and then they entered the promised land. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
- For 40 days Goliath taunted the Israelites, and then David defeated him with a stone and a slingshot. (1 Samuel 17:16)
- Elijah traveled 40 days and 40 nights before he came to Mount Horeb, and then God appeared to him. (1 Kings 19:7-12)
- Jonah warned the people of Ninevah for 40 days, and then they repented and God spared them. (Jonah 3:4)
- Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, tempted by Satan, and then he began his ministry. (Mark 1:13)
- After his death and resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples for 40 days, and then he returned to heaven. (Acts 1:3)
Maybe I have been excited to turn 40 because God has been faithful to be with me in this probationary period of my life and perhaps I am entering into a time of blessing and renewal, and my heart has sensed it’s coming. Perhaps an “and then” is on the horizon. However, I can tell you this. The memorial stone that I am laying down at the halfway point of my life can be summed up in the second verse of Amazing Grace,
“Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come (many of which I have not been aware). His grace has brought me safe this far, and grace will lead me home.”
He has shown me incredible grace these past 40 years, and I know that His grace can be counted on in the next 40 years to come.
Perhaps I have looked forward to being 40 because I have recognized my time of probation and testing, and God has placed an anticipation of blessing and renewal upon my heart. I am sensing a coming, “and then” for my life.
Each of us goes through a season of probation and testing before the Lord allows us to be used mightily of Him. Let’s not bemoan this time of preparation, but look forward with anticipation for the time of renewal that is to come. Yet remember,
It might just take 40 years.