On turning 30.
I appreciate the symbolism of this season. I think I need it. When David says, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,” it’s helpful to have a representative shift in decades adjoining the sentiment.
My twenties were voluminous. I experienced more in my twenties than I ever dreamed I would as a little kid growing up in Alabama. I went to four different universities and got three degrees while accruing zero debt. I traveled to more countries across the world than all the states I had ever traveled to in the US. I wrote one of my Masters theses in the spa room of a cruise ship while getting paid to sing Motown. I met the Dalai Lama on three separate occasions, one of which I was his bodyguard. I started my career. I made and lost more friends than I thought possible. I loved fiercely and foolishly. I worked more jobs than my parents have in their lifetimes.
And despite all the triumphs of this incredibly rich decade, I emerge happy to leave it behind. Glad to move on. Looking forward to this clean slate of my thirties as a chance to live differently. What do I mean? Throughout my twenties I had a particular modus operandi. One that largely went unexamined. One that I think is characteristic of many young men in their twenties. I would press into new ventures—be it school, work, relationships, friendships—with an undeterrable sense that things would work out. An irrepressibly winsome confidence. An attitude never malicious, but mostly unquestioned. Just a faith in myself and my yearnings. One that was often inspiring to people and reaped many benefits. This was a disposition born of many things: growing up with both of my parents in a loving household, being told I was great, being male in a patriarchal society, lack of a clear, unvarnished understanding of the existential threat of being black in America, a belief that statistics don’t apply to me, a deficient contemplation of death. There were other factors I’m sure. But they all congealed into this way of being.
If I was on the basketball court, I expected my team to win, despite the odds. If I felt a love in my heart, I would move on it, knowing that was enough. Can any young men out there relate to this? Like telling someone, “It’s going to be okay,” when you do NOT know it’s going to be okay.
I would fly into a new situation, all heart, without having counted the cost. And it caught up to me. A lot of times it worked out, but it was an approach with serious limitations. And over time, I met pain and failure with frequency. Until eventually I collapsed. I hit a wall and crashed. The pain I caused people in the failure of this approach stopped me in my tracks, and I was forced to examine the unexamined. To re-evaluate my entire approach to life. How I inhabit my body. How I enter relationship. How I honor friendship. How I behave at work. How I pursue my career. How I treat my family. How I interact with God. This time in full view of the heartbreak of failure.
“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Now I seek to walk through life more humbly. More sensitively. More cautiously, but no less joyfully. More contemplative. More grounded. More willing to admit my shortcomings. And an acknowledgement of how I’ve grown is also an acknowledgement of how much I have to grow. It is a blessed opportunity, this new decade. May the Lord show up in me in a big way. May God renew a right spirit within me daily. And may my every word and every step be motivated not by a belief in my own corporeal strength of will, but a belief in what God can do through me. Amen.
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