Heart Matters: Turning 40

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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.

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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?

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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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