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On Achieving the Age At Which Jesus Died

Thirty-three: the age Jesus was when He died. I have now achieved the age of the man who split history in half, brought God’s redemption to earth, and changed billions of lives (including mine). Reflecting on this milestone, I find myself  waxing philosophical on this surprisingly un-rainy day in West Africa.

What does it mean to live a great life? Not just a good life. Not a culturally normative, politically correct, small town, little family, Hallmark cozy life. A great life.

A great life is an arrow pointing to something greater. Even Jesus, whose life and teachings managed to challenge and revolutionize the sociopolitical and religious systems of the ancient and modern worlds, pointed to the Father. Is this the life I want? Am I really living to exalt the Great name of our God, or merely to satisfy the desires of my deceitfully inconstant heart?

The past few days, the theme of God’s great faithfulness has been brought to my eyes and ears repeatedly. My aunt, who e-mailed me a hymn every day of my birthday week, sent (unbeknownst to her) my favorite hymn on my actual birthday. Does this brief life of mine “join with all nature in manifold witness / to [His] great faithfulness, mercy and love”? Since I am (chronically) a few days behind in my Bible reading plan, last night I was assigned to read Lamentations 3. This morning, I woke up singing the verse: “His mercies never come to an end / They are new every morning / great is Thy faithfulness.” Not much later, I heard a song playing from the kitchen: “I will look back and see that You are faithful / I look ahead believing You are able!”

It seems God wants me to start this year thinking not of my own performance, but of His. For a perfectionist, this is difficult. In pursuit of a great God, I have often been distracted by my desires to be liked and to appear perfect. I obsess over being “unfriended” on social media, and daily failing my children with my impatient heart and quick tongue.

Several friends and I have been trying to memorize a Scripture passage each week, and by no accident this week chose we chose I John 2:15-17. The apostle John urges us not to love the things of the world, and to turn away from the pride of life (the desire to make much of ourselves). Since these are commands, we cannot assume them to be abstract impossibilities. God can help us. He wants to help us. He made our hearts and minds too deep to be satisfied by the exaltation of our shallow selves.  Deep calls out to deep. He has not left us without an answer. He speaks in a hundred ways to us, every day, if we will listen. In nature, in music, in Scripture. In the still, quiet voice of His Spirit. He has not left us alone.

We can better hear Him when we drown out the noise of our dissatisfied hearts and the rabble of the equally dissatisfied hearts around us. The internet can connect us to others, but often it serves merely as a distraction from real life connections. Television and radio can bring information and ideas to large audiences, but nearly always has an agenda.  Am I wise about the way I spend my attention? Is the Bible shaping my view of media, or media my view of the Bible? Many Christians are mediocre in desire and lifestyle, because the dominant voices in our mental narratives are often neither Scripture nor the Holy Spirit. Instead, we give equal (or greater) time to voices exalting the world and the things of the world: political platforms, social agendas, and our little lives.

His mercies are new every morning. Even mornings after I stayed up till 1AM to find out the ending of the Bills game, after which my three-year-old woke up at 2AM, 3AM and for good at 5:45AM thanks to the warrior calls of the school children climbing the hill in front of our house. On days like this, I am especially grateful that although I am not great, I belong to One who is. He conquered life and death in just 33-years, which makes me feel both old and young simultaneously. He is great, and I want my next trip around the sun to point only to Him.

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