I turned thirty-six this past Saturday. 36. It's a good solid number. An even number, a square number, an adult number. Not glowing with youth, but youth is still present. Not glistening or shining with youth, but still burning. Perhaps now youth begins to burn more in your soul then in your body and age becomes more a product of health and creativity, then it does of body-years.
When I thought about being an adult as a child (and I never really thought about anything above 25 with much consideration), I think that I was imagining 36. It seems steady and sure (even if it's not) because people who are 36 should have a clue about their lives. I think that it must be one of the laws of the universe. At age 36 you should have a clue.
Every birthday I choose a theme of the year. It started out as a rhyming game.
27 closer to heaven.
28 ain't it great.
28 i'm feeling fine.
30...what was 30?
31 it's lots of fun.
32 gotta get thru.
33 i'm really free.
34 walk thru the door.
then..35...Awake. The rhyming stopped.
I was very awake at 35. It was good to be awake, I took a lot in. Being awake that long is also exhausting. I ended my 35th year tired. It was a productive and fruitful year, but it was laborious. And exhausting when I look back on it. Of course, there are some good things to show for it.
In my 35th year: I was in 6 countries (with my 7 year old daughter and husband and one of those countries with 14 students), finished my coursework in my doctoral program, preached numerous times, had scores of students into my home, got settled in our new house, travelled to two other states to speak, spent 3 weeks in Kentucky over Christmas and read....maybe 6000 pages...hosted a sleepover with 8 elementary girls, started a prayer group, cried 17 times, continued a community group, did 300 loads of laundry, weeded and reweeded and re-re-weeded a garden and spent at least 400 hours of time with my sweet husband. See? Awake, but tired.
Clint and I were reflecting on the past year and about the year ahead and what the theme of these 365 days should be. The story of the tortoise and the hare as had great significance in my life. I tend to be a hare, but am developing my inner tortoise. I like to do things fast and I like to win, so I have wanted to somehow integrate the tortoise and hare experience. Can you both be speedy and steady? The story would tell you that you can't. But in real life it seems like the goal is speed and pace together. Speed isn't the enemy of winning, lack of pacing yourself is.
This year I do need to finish the race. It's a year of completing my doctoral program and being steady in my ministry and work. It's also the year of learning more about pace-keeping and grace. I recognize that I can't speed through ministry and life and writing. Steady and sure brings completion. Speed may be the enemy of intimacy and depth of life, but slowness often lacks catalystic momentum.
So...as I am praying and listening, it seems that this The Year of the Turtle. Time to embrace my inner tortoise. The win is in the daily progress of grace and pace and steadiness. I do need the turtle to be drinking coffee, however, because I can't afford to be slow.