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Heart Matters

Dick Gruber

I'm writing this article less than a week after the big one. What big one? The mighty four-zero, of course. That's correct! You wouldn't guess it from the really young picture of me with this article, but I just turned 40. Yes, I am the same age Moses was when he left Pharaoh's court.

You should've read some of the cards I received for my birthday. One child wrote, "You are the oldest, nicest pastor in the world." A family from my church sent a card that reads, "When you were born, doves soared through the air, sunlight poured down from the heavens, and the animals of the earth rejoiced. Then Noah said, 'Hey-looks like it's clearing up!' "

Then there were the never-ending comments from the lips of my own children. If they only knew the crop that these seeds of disrespect will grow into some day. In years gone by, when my parents and friends reached this physical milestone, I too showed no regard for my possible future. I mercilessly "kidded" my elders. I have reaped what I've sown.

The cake my children purchased came near to a molecular meltdown when the magnitude of trick candles couldn't be extinguished.

So this is my chance to write to you on the subject of turning 40. What have I learned? What am I feeling? When will I quit whimpering? How do I get the dark hair dye off my fingers?

The first time I realized my chronological age was higher than 17 was when my 14-year-old daughter left me stranded behind the puppet stage on knees that refused to straighten out. Kneeling crippled behind a puppet stage isn't the only sign of advancing age.

I can't seem to remember what I said in Sunday's service. In children's church, I catch myself wondering in the middle of a sentence if this is something I've already said.

My daughter Rachel and son Timothy used to offer to pull the occasional gray hair from my beard and hair. Now they offer to comb them. I feel like everyone of these has been earned, but the teen-age mind contained in this 40-year-old skull has a bit of trouble comprehending the gray staring back at it from the bathroom mirror.

People try to comfort me. They say things such as, "You have your best years ahead of you" or "You're not getting older; you're getting better." Somehow that doesn't make me feel better.

What bugs me most are the comments about pastoring my own church someday. One lady said to me, "Now that you're 40, I suppose you'll be looking for a real pastorate."

I'm a children's pastor! I'm a 40-year-old children's pastor who plans to pastor my "congregation" -- those 12 and under -- for the next 30 or 40 years.

Oh, I may get to a point where I can't move a puppet's mouth. I might not be able to hear the teachers verbalizing their resignations, but I'm not about to give up. When Moses left Pharaoh's court, he was just beginning his ministry.

Some of you are my age or older. You've heard the comments, put up with the questions, and patiently wrestled with the physical limitations that come with age. You've made a choice. You'll not give up this heavenly call. Like me, you know where God has placed you and you're not about to settle for second best.

We are warriors of the Cross, established in the most important ministry in today's church. We are children's pastors and leaders and workers. Whatever happens, we'll triumph with God's people. We'll carry on into the next 40 years teaching, blessing, and caring for God's little ones.

Forty, it's not so bad. In fact, like all else, I believe God will work even my age out for the good of those who love him, to those who are called according to his purpose.

Dick Gruber is a young whippersnapper in Bloomington, Minnesota.

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