The 40’s Fork

Sparse and random were the small, black plastic discs. Stationed at ground level, most lay out of sight. Quiet. Dormant. Lifeless. They kindled little hope.
I summoned that micro-hope into energy to open a tired valve. A surge of pent-up water pushed past a squeaky groan and filled thirsty pipes. The sounds of pressurization and anticipation echoed through the plumbing. Then abruptly, silence. A good silence. Encouraging silence. Hope grew.

With renewed curiosity, I walked to the garage. Stopping at the workbench I directed my gaze upon a dim display recessed within a gray box. After stumbling through a sequence of button pushes, I grabbed the dial – and turned. Hand still firm on the control, I tensed like a cat ready to pounce. I listened. I hoped.
My grip lightened as I heard a gurgle. Then a hiss. With cautious optimism I bounded to the front of the garage. Bursts of vapor coughed and spurted from my small piece of suburban ground. It was a mini-Yellowstone landscape (sans the buffalo). From within the vale of vapor I saw silhouettes of small black cylinders worrying their way through crusty soil. They looked like guards at Buckingham Palace – tiny lawn soldiers with grassy bearskins (hats) rising to attention. Without hesitation these sprinklers in disguise began to process through a programmed choreography designed to deliver a dance of water in calculated trajectories.

I laughed. I whooped. I was giddy at this unexpected resurrection. With the joy of a child, I moved gleefully about my yard discovering hidden sprinklers like Easter eggs. I grinned at the platoon that had assembled and stood ready to bring luxuriant green to my scrubby landscape.

The surprise of an unexpectedly functional sprinkling system brings me great joy. Admittedly, my doubts were stacked high. I could see but a few clues that a system existed. Yet when called to action, the sprinklers woke from their subterranean hibernation. What appeared dysfunctional and lifeless was just waiting for activation. A call to be alive – again.

I’m in my early 40’s. Forty was a rough transition. If I’m statistically normal, I’m beyond the halfway point of life. For a guy aligned with the ‘glass half empty’ crowd, that’s tough news. The past few years I’ve thought often about what I’ve done, haven’t done, wish to do, and regret doing. The aches are starting, stamina is fading, and grey hair is blossoming. Cynicism stalks me. The big dreams of my 20’s have been buried by reason and reality. Those that survive are achieved with exceptional effort or remain elusive. This brings waves of disillusionment that pound the shore of my self-talk. It’s decision time as I stand at the fork of the 40’s: do I stay engaged, or check out.

As I reflect upon my strangely euphoric reaction to sprinklers popping-up like Prairie Dogs, I wonder what lies dormant in me? What has God yet to activate in my life? What exciting, unexpected, life-giving adventures await me in my second half? What needed to wait? What might stay dormant if I check out? Am I stealing joy from others, and myself? What fears limit my ability to foster life in my wife, children, neighbors, and co-workers? Will I bury myself and my dreams like an inactive, subterranean sprinkler or move into life’s rich depths that arrive only through passed time and collected experiences?

As I write, it’s not quite 6:30am. In the dark of the office suite my pastor whisks by my open door and exclaims, “It’s a great day, Chris!” Ah, medicine for my tumultuous 40-something soul. Today is great! It’s been sovereignly stuffed with situations and circumstances begging me to engage with courageous trust. Every relationship and task and thought and activity is opportunity to give back to the One who gifted this day.

Some say 40 is the new 30. I’m not buying that (neither is my body). What I am fully embracing is the type of life described by Thomas R. Kelly in his book, “A Testament of Devotion.” It’s the life of an active, vibrant, fully devoted follower of Jesus. Checked-in and ready. I want that life – at 43 and beyond. Here it is:

“The life that intends to be wholly obedient, wholly submissive, wholly listening, is astonishing in its completeness. Its joys are ravishing, its peace profound, its humility the deepest, its power world-shaking, its love enveloping, its simplicity that of a trusting child.”

Join me in asking God for more of Him. Let’s bask in the joy of bringing Him glory as we rest satisfied in all that He is. That’s life – at any age.

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