I think it fitting on my fortieth birthday (wow, did I just write that?!) to reflect a bit on what forty years of life have taught me. I was a really stupid 20-something at one time, so I can identify with those who might like to learn from their elder’s mistakes – I made plenty of them. Hopefully this will save someone else the heart-break and stress of some of my mistakes.
- “You ain’t all that and a ball of wax.” And no, I’m not quoting a popular music artist; that is what my grandmother used to say. If there is one thing I wish I would’ve learned sooner, it is this: that life really isn’t about me. There are 6 billion people floating around on a ball of dirt whizzing way too fast for my comfort through an insignificant galaxy in the middle of an insignificant corner of the universe. So I’ve realized this is what I need to do: sit down, be humble and listen to some people who have some grey hair. They might know something. You should try it – I’m still listening because I don’t have enough grey hair yet. So, then, what is the point of life, if not to seek your own benefit? We must give life away for it to gain any sort of meaning. God wired us for relationship – with God and with each other. And the best way to relate is to listen to someone else’s story and add value to their life. When we add value to others, we add value into our own lives automatically.
- “Life is like a box of chocolates” – Forrest Gump. It really is. Some days are like the cherry cordial (my favorite) and others are like coconut cream (which makes me want to gag). Take the good days in stride, don’t think too highly of yourself in those times (#1 again) and be thankful that there are seasons in life. The bad days never last forever, but like coconut creams there are a few in every box.
- “No one ever died wishing they had spent more time at work.” – unknown. The biggest regret most people have on their deathbed is that they have family relationships that are in ruins – and that they no longer have the time to make them right. So, prevent that now. Mend relationships in your family; spend time with your loved ones and make sure they know you love them; and above all, be the first to apologize. Really, make it a race. Remember, you ain’t all that anyway and some days are coconut creams, so it won’t hurt you to apologize – even when you KNOW you are right. Forgiveness goes a long way too. Remember, just because you forgive someone else doesn’t make what they did right. Forgiveness simply releases you from the grip of bitterness and releases that person into God’s hands. And forgiveness is a choice, not an emotion. Emotions will line up AFTER you choose to forgive.
- “He who gives the most away while he is still living wins.” – unknown. The Pharaohs used to take all their treasures to the grave, only for some twentieth-century archaeologist to dig it up and put it in a museum. Meanwhile, there was probably a son or daughter or cousin who would’ve put it to better use. You can’t take gold with you – and besides, why would you want to bring heaven more street paving material (remember, streets paved with gold!)? So, give it away while you can. This applies to more than just money – give your time, your talent, your treasure and, most importantly, yourself. Give a shoulder to cry on, a hand for strength and a strong back to help clean up. Give until it is hard, ask God for help and realize that you can never out give God. I dare you to try.
I’m sure there is more I’ve learned, like integrity matters more than anything else in life and to always let your spouse and kids know you love them every day. But, I’ve said enough for 40. Now, I’ll let those who know more speak too and I’ll sit down and listen.