I was recently asked to write a few words for a friend who was turning 40. I thought, “Herb, why let this sit on only one person’s desk? Why not clutter up a whole bunch of desks?” So here it is. For those of you on my side of 40 years, I think you’ll especially appreciate this. For those young ‘uns, hold on to this. Someday you’ll need it.
John, they asked me to write a few words in honor of your 40th birthday. They did NOT ask me to attend because they know that I am so much older than you and too frail to travel. I’ve known you for over 20 years and, quite frankly, am amazed you’ve made it this far. But since your parents, your wife and your church have not yet put you away, you might be okay. Let me give you some words of wisdom that most people won’t tell you. As your mentor, I feel responsible to let you in on the truth.
Myths of Turning 40
- Myth number 1, “Life Begins at 40.”
If someone has not already done so, they will soon tell you this. It is a lie. Mostly told by people who are trying to soothe the pain of aging and share their own misery. It is sometimes said by people who haven’t seen 40 yet and HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT!!
Life does not begin at 40, it just keeps walking on. If it actually began at the big 4-0 it means you would not be married, have children or gained any wisdom at all. Pity your mom if you arrived like you are today!
- Myth number 2, “Life Ends at 40.”
Usually mockingly said by the young whipper-snappers. They think death is on the door step when you hit 39 years and 365 days. It’s not so, it just freezes up a lot and you have to “reboot” more often.
- Myth number 3, “You’re not getting older, you’re getter better.” (Usually followed by, “You’re like a fine wine that gets better with age”).
Again, not true. You ARE getting older. Time marches on, buckaroo. And a day older does not automatically mean you’ve gotten a day finer, better or smarter. Fine wine might get better with age. Cheese might get better by fermenting. But the same amount of time will turn bananas into a big mass of bruised goo and potatoes into a stinking mess. Your choice.
- Myth number 4, “You’re only as old as you feel.”
Sorry, but you’ll never be 25 again, no matter how your sensory nerves communicate with your brain. You are the age you are… and you WILL feel it.
- Myth number 5, “You can still do anything you put your mind to.”
Those 40 year old football and baseball players are one in a million. The rest of us mortals are limited by the damage age inflicts. My jump shot will never be the same because my knees won’t allow it. No matter how I put my mind to it, I will not hit another home run because my mind doesn’t swing the bat, my aching shoulder do. The rest of my body has a huge say in the matter.
Okay, those are some myths you need to be aware of. Now let me give you some truths of turning 40.
- Truth number 1, “Old age and experience will beat youth and strength every time.”
This comes from a bumper sticker my dad had. I didn’t understand it when I was in my 30’s and didn’t believe it until after I turned 40. Good choices come from wisdom. Wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from bad choices. Enough years of that and you ought to be wise enough to overcome the impulses of those young brutes. Or you’ll probably be dead from the effects of the bad choices.
- Truth number 2, “If it hurts, be thankful you can still feel it.”
Something is going to hurt every morning for the rest of your life. That is not the problem. The problem is when you can no longer feel that it hurts. Be
- Truth number 3, “Entertainment is redefined.”
Webster is not the only one who changes the meaning of words. When you were young a night on the town started early, involved a lot of activity and, sometimes, strenuous movement. It did not involve sitting still. Get ready, that is about to change. A night on the town will soon mean comparing the fiber content of cereal at Wal-Mart, driving through the automated car wash, going home to sit on the front porch to sip iced tea, and going to bed by 10:00. AND YOU WILL ENJOY IT!!
- Truth number 4, “You will get excited about the simplest, oddest things.”
Laugh if you want, pal, but you will leap with joy (at least you’ll think it is leaping; others will think you are burping) at things you once took for granted.
You will get excited…
when you can remember why you entered a room. Mark it down, some day you will walk into the bedroom, get a puzzled look on your face, turn around to retrace your steps in the often vain attempt to recall your purpose for walking there. You’ll do circles like a dog getting its bed ready. And sometimes that is exactly what you came into the bedroom to do.
when you can sleep after eating anything spicier than toast. At 40 all the enzymes that digested pepperoni pizza at midnight retire and you are left with only
rebellious stomach gremlins that love to keep you up and turn your digestive
track into a roller coaster.
when you can carry on a complete conversation without saying, “huh?” The eyes, the ears, and then who knows what after that slowly fade into the sunset.
when you see a commercial that addresses one of the things that ail you. Who cares about the movie you were watching, what was that commercial?
when you can read a book without propping it up on the other side of the room. Your arms will not be long enough to read the fiber content on the cereal during your exciting night on the town.
Now, John, I don’t mean to sound negative. Frankly I wouldn’t go back to the days when the body worked much better because the downhill slope of the body is such a small part of life.
Here’s the best truth of all – “Your best days are ahead.” You’re not over the hill, you’re standing on a ridge that is half way up the mountain of life. God is doing good things in your life. I’ve watched you grow and succeed and stretch and surrender and strive to be all God intends. Your spirit is soaring. When we are young we don’t stop to consider what is of highest importance. Growing older causes us to reconsider as we realize we will not live forever. We can use the last half of life to more intentionally make a difference that will last.
Listen to what the Bible says,
"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life." Proverbs 16:31 (NIV)
"The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old." Proverbs 20:29 (NIV)
Here’s to living life boldly on the good side of 40!
Your old brother in Christ, Herb
P.S. I would have written more, but it’s almost 7:00 and Sheila and I are headed out on the town. They’re having a special on fiber at Wal-Mart!