“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.” - Steve Jobs, Stanford University Commencement
In April, I will turn 40. As I’ve considered this over the last few months, it occured to me that if I live a relatively healthy, long life, 40 is about half way. The first time I thought this, a little nauseating twinge ran through me. My life is half over. But since then, I have discovered that this kind of realization can be incredibly helpful. As Steve Jobs indicated, it can provide a clarity that is missing in daily life. Instead of being morbid, it has actually re-energized me and given me more freedom.
Once I adjusted to my discovery of 40 as a mid-point, my follow up question was, “How did I spend the first half of my time?” As I look back, overall, I’m pretty happy with my choices. I’ve worked hard, invested in important relationships, traveled to interesting places, learned a lot, and had some professional success. I’m not famous, nor have I impacted the world in a dramatic way, but I’m generally content with the first half of my life. As I look ahead, however, to the second half, there are some things I want to do differently.
First, I realize that my time is very valuable – every minute of it. In my first 40 years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and planning for the future. Sometimes that planning ahead consumed more of my energy than it should have, preventing me from fully appreciating and learning from the moment. In the next half, I want to spend less time thinking about the future and more time thinking about and experiencing the present. Each day is an incredible gift, and I want to treat it as one, being more present to God and to the people around me.
The other thing I realize is that I have spent a lot of time thinking about me. Not that I don’t give to others or spend plenty of time helping others, but I have thought about it as my life, my career, my family, etc. I have often forgotten that they all belong to God and are His to direct. During the second half of my life, I want to trust these things to God to do what He wants with them. I want to look forward to them with a sense of adventure and expectation, knowing that many of my experiences in my earlier years have been training for what He wants to do with me in the years to come.
Perhaps getting older itself is a great gift. It is an opportunity to see what God is doing more clearly, and a chance to choose how I will reinvest my time to build an even better “portfolio” of my life. This has been a valuable “half-time” moment, and I’m returning to the field ready to play the second half with gusto.