I have no real memory of my actual birthday in 2006 (or most years before I met my wife) but I remember a lot about the season of life in which it happened. It was my freshman year at SLU and my parents were still living in the house where I grew up. My older brother was running the bakery we had started together during my senior year of high school. I had just changed my major from Finance to Theology and English Literature. I had attended a few meetings of a little Christian group on campus called InterVarsity but I wasn’t really sure what I thought about it just yet. Like many 19-year-olds, I was dating a girl I thought I would marry. Like most, I was wrong.
My life ten years later is dominated by the things that seemed peripheral to me ten years ago. At 19, I felt indifferent at best about living in Saint Louis – I remember feeling terrified to drive on the highways that felt so much bigger than Route 13 in my hometown. A few years later, my love for this city was one of a handful of shared passions that would bind me to a beautiful girl I first met while she was challenging some students and I to serve in the public school system here.
At 19, college was just another place for me to showcase my elite status to the world. I got good grades in high school and was president of a few mostly meaningless organizations and college would be another opportunity for me to build a hill where I could be King. I could never have guessed that the university world would become my home and the mission field I now see to be the most significant in the Western world.
I could keep going but, I suppose, my main observation of life at 29 is that the things that mattered most to me at 19 (with a few notable exceptions) are certainly not what matter most to me now. What was in the front and center of my mind at 19 has now fallen to the wayside. It was the fringes of my life and experiences that God used to get me where I am now. Like everything else, the margins were what changed the center, and not the other way around.
As I look down the barrel at the last year of my twenties, I can’t help but wonder what things feel important to me now that won’t matter at all at 39. What is happening at the fringes of my life now that will soon feel irreplaceable? Where is Jesus speaking but I currently lack the ears to hear? These are the questions I am pondering at 29. May the Lord give as much grace to my 29th year as he has given to every year before – I have no doubt that he will.