Monthly Archives: October 2011

Dear 40: A letter to a new friend

Dear 40,

For some time now, you’ve been threatening your arrival and it looks like the day is finally here.  In recognition of the event, I’ve decided that you and I should establish some ground rules, some parameters, some expectations and limitations.  While I realize that you define my age from this point forward, I refuse to let you define who I am.

First off, let me say that I am not afraid of you.  I am not afraid of the aching body that is sure to come in the next decade, for I am aware that every ache, every pain, every ailment holds a memory or experience that I will not trade.  Sore knees remind me that I have hiked difficult terrain, from the plains of Africa to the treacherous landscape of the human heart, and have found God’s beauty displayed in more magnificence than words could express.  Each kink in my back reminds me that I have shouldered immensely heavy loads, both physical and emotional, and come out better for it.  Every bladder leak is a glorious reminder that I have brought breathtaking, captivating life into this world in the form of three extraordinary children.  And deteriorating eyesight reassures me that while my outward vision is failing, my inward vision is growing sharper and clearer with every day.  These badges of honor, as annoying and inconvenient as they may be, have been earned and I will display them with humility and gratitude.

Let me also tell you what you can expect from me for the next 10 years.  You can expect change.  I have no intention of staying the same.  At every turn, I will strive to grow and stretch.  I will become stronger, wiser and smarter with every day and every experience.  But let me warn you that during this endeavor you will see me in pain.  You will see me driven to tears.  You will see me resist the transitions.  You will see me fight and fail.  Because even though you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks, the learning often comes with great work and difficulty.  Don’t get me wrong, however.  I will learn the tricks and perform them with unequaled abandon.

You can expect resistance.  While my body ages and is slowly forced to accept your inevitable toll, my spirit will revel in youth and resilience.  Instead of accepting my limitations, I will climb higher, laugh louder and run faster.  I refuse to let you dictate what I can and cannot do.  I will be the one to determine my limits and then I will be the one to surpass those limits.

You will also see me succeed.  You will see me excel in ways you or I never thought possible.  You will witness abilities and passions surface in me with unexpected force and grace.  Certainly there will be setbacks and obstacles, but I will surprise you with untapped potential and perseverance.  You see, your predecessor, 30, has taught me that I am stronger and more persistent than I may appear.  I will embrace this strength and show you exactly what I am made of.

All that said, I am ready for you.  Ready for your challenges and your obstacles.  Ready for your thrilling victories and your new adventures.  Ready to let go of who I’ve been and learn who I am becoming.  Ready to move ahead.  Ready to experience life with confidence, exhilaration, and passion.  I am ready.  I hope you are too.



Being José

There is a boy on my son’s soccer team named José. He is a phenomenal player. In fact, it’s safe to say he is the best player on the team. He is fast and precise, intentional and strategic. But there is something about the way José plays that cannot be measured in skills or footwork. He plays without effort. He reacts to the game as though his body was created for nothing else than playing soccer. It’s not that he doesn’t need to try, it’s that he doesn’t need to think. He simply plays, without consideration or analysis. While other players are thinking about what needs to happen next, José is already doing it. His play is like his breathing: effortless, easy, and steady.

I would like to love the way José plays soccer. In my life, I have not always loved well. To be more accurate, when it comes to those who may be difficult to love, I have rarely loved well. And in the instances when I have somehow risen above my own self-centeredness and chosen to express love despite the circumstances, it has been just that: a choice. It was not easy and it was not effortless.

Scripture can sometimes be vague and biblical doctrine and interpretation is debated by some of the brightest theologians of our time. But regarding the topic of love, there is no question. We are commanded to love. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Mt 22:39. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Co 13:13. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Mt 5:44. And that’s just off the top of my head.

Love the Lord, love your enemy, love your neighbor. Love, love, love. No exceptions, no conditions or parameters; just a straightforward command. If only following that command were as easy as acknowledging it. Unfortunately, all too often I fall way too short. I am judgmental, quick to anger and belittling. What I wouldn’t give to shed that persona, that entitlement, and choose love without thought or consideration.

And that brings me back to José. Although José’s soccer is graceful, flowing and beautiful to watch, there is the reality that such an accomplishment did not come overnight. It came with a great deal of time and a great deal of practice. José has clearly been playing soccer for as long as he could walk. He has been sharpening and wielding his skills for a very long time and he is now reaping the rewards. That said, I recognize that developing a loving perspective and attitude is something that does not come naturally for me. But that’s not to say, it can never come naturally. On any given day, I am presented with opportunities to choose love or choose myself. I am convinced that if I consistently strive to choose love, in due time, that choice will become effortless. While today it is an intentional and pointed decision, somewhere down the road it can happen without thought or exertion.

One last thought about José. José rarely has a bad game. He usually walks off the field with his head held high knowing that he gave his best, that he played well and did exactly what was required of him. What if I could finish each day with the same realization? What if I could crawl in bed each night and rest in the peace of knowing that I had loved well, that I had done what was required of me? It’s not that I’ve never had that, but more often than not, my day is filled with missed opportunities and choices I faced that went sadly awry.

Love, love, love. It’s simple and complicated all at the same time. I want it to be simpler. I want to remove the complexity from love and let it flow from me as gracefully and effortlessly as the mighty Mississippi. And at the end of the day, I want to count myself in the ranks of José and his soccer playing. I want to reflect on my actions and choices and feel confidant that I loved as well as José plays soccer.