The end of each year and the dawn of a new one take on more meaning when your birthday falls on December 31. The anticipation and resolve going into the New Year are doubled. The introspection and goal setting of a birthday have double attention because of this alignment of special days. So last week was a time of special focus for me. This is especially so now that I am a tic past half a century — or half 102 as I now tell my fully grown kids.

When I was young, idealistic, and first starting out in my twenties, I didn't picture feeling this way in my fifties. I thought that when people reached my current age, they were old, patient, settled and in less of a hurry.

My body does occasionally tell me that I'm not young anymore. Yet I look at friends and mentors two or three decades or more ahead of me on the birthday train and I don't yet picture myself as old. I'm definitely not ready to settle down, settle in, or simply settle for where things are. I believe God still has things he wants me to do. I long to deepen and expand my walk with Christ. I continue to see great opportunities that need to be seized for the good of the Kingdom. What surprises me most, however, is that I'm definitely not more patient. In many ways, I am much more impatient about wanting to see God-sized things happen in my world now than I was in my twenties.

At 21, I could not have anticipated the places that Lord has taken me and the ways the Father has blessed me in my journey — and I thought I had big dreams at 21. I've been blessed to experience more than I ever imagined would happen. However, that taste of God's gracious power has only left me hungry and thirsty for more. There seems to be so much left to do and so many opportunities that lie so close at hand. I still earnestly believe that God is able to do "exceedingly more than we could ask or imagine." (Ephesians 3:20-21) So, I want to ask and imagine big things for this next part of my faith journey and turn God loose to "exceedingly more"!

The flip side of this passion is that I grow more frustrated each year with the way those of us in the Christian community fritter away God's great promises, miss our incredible Kingdom opportunities, and ignore our transcendent responsibilities. My heart beats with a greater urgency for the work I believe God wants done. My tempestuousness rises when I hear of those who are willing to just keep doing the same ol' "just fine" thing when the grand work of God goes wanting. As our world grows smaller and genuine Christian living seems to go into greater eclipse in the middle of our changing world, my sense of urgency skyrockets. I long to see God's people make a real difference in the lives of young, unbelieving, un-churched, and turned-off-to-church people who are seeking meaning and purpose in their lives.

Paul's words from long ago still hauntingly beckon me:

I don't mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection! But I keep working toward that day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be. No, dear brothers and sisters, I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven. ... You who are mature Christians will agree on these things. (Philippians 3:12-15 NLT)

My heart beats with a greater urgency!
In cornbread English, Paul is emphasizing that the ultimate sign of maturity is a "holy impatience" and a "heavenly focus" as we seek to get God's Kingdom work done in our world in our time!

So what's the point?

Well, no matter our ages, let's not allow each other to grow complacent and lose our sense of holy impatience. Let's "fan into flame" (2 Timothy 1:6) the gifts and passions that God has placed in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Let's encourage each other daily to love and good deeds. (Hebrews 3:13;  Hebrews 10:23-25) Most of all, let's not go into retreat from — or even worse, go to war with — our rapidly emerging post-modern culture. Instead, let's recommit ourselves to the holy work of being salt and light in a world of decay and darkness by living as examples of the character, compassion, and community that God wants us to be and that helps others see the presence of Christ more clearly.