Today is my 31st birthday. As Alyson put it, “You’re no longer just thirty. You’re in your thirties.” Thanks, Alyson. Truth be told, I’m pretty grateful to be right where I am. Being a pastor and connecting with so many different people helps keep things in perspective. Just last week, shortly before her death, I had the joy of visiting with Mrs. Flora Atkerson. At 97, she was still driving, still mall-walking, and still loving life. Just a few weeks ago, I had the great joy of welcoming a couple of brand new baby girls into the Southland family. My kids are young, but it’s amazing how quickly you forget about how tiny we all start out. On the one hand, I’m less than one-third the age of Mrs. Atkerson. On the other, I’m 372 times older than these two one month old little girls. Old or young? It really is a matter of perspective, isn’t it?
In my 372 months on this planet (or if you like, 11,322 days or 271,728 hours or 16,303,680 minutes or 978,220,800 seconds), I have lived long enough to experience unspeakable joys and gut-wrenching sorrows. I don’t have many answers for why either happen. Nevertheless, I have learned, and am continuing to learn, that God is with me every step of the way. The writer, Katherine Marshall, tells a story about her friend Marge who was traveling on a plane headed to Cleveland. As Marge waited for takeoff, she noticed out of one set of windows a glorious sunset that transformed the sky into a canvas of colors. However, out of the window just next to Marge (a window located on the other side of the plane), all she could see was a dark, menacing sky with no trace of the encouraging light of the sun. As she took off, she heard a quiet voice speak within her:
“You have noticed the windows. Your life, too, will contain some happy, beautiful times, but also some dark shadows. Here’s a lesson I want to teach you to save you much heartache and allow you to ‘abide in Me’ with continual peace and joy.
“You see, it doesn’t matter which window you look through; this plane is still going to Cleveland. So it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy picture. Or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark, ominous situations to me. I alone can handle them anyway. The final destination is not influenced by what you see and hear along the way” (Katherine Marshall , "Touching the Heart of God," Christianity Today, (5-15-95)).
However many months you’ve been alive, it’s my prayer, today, that God will bless you this week with the ability to trust him in the storms and to rejoice in the bright gifts he gives.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age – Jesus, in Matthew 27:66.