Monday, April 16, 2012

The Most Important Thing About My Life: Thoughts on Turning 33

Today I am 33 years old.

Perhaps there is nothing particularly special about being 33. The ability to drive a car has long since lost its novelty. I have endured enough long lines to know that while democracy is a privilege, it is not always enjoyable. I already can drink alcoholic beverages if I want to, and it's too late to act like that's a big deal. And fortunately, I have a few more birthdays until I'm "over the hill," whatever that means.

But for me, there is something more special about this birthday than every one of the typical milestone birthdays. For me, there is quite a significance in turning 33 years old. As far as we know, this is the age at which Jesus Christ was crucified. I am now the age Jesus was when He laid down His perfect life for my sinful life and reconciled me to God.

Now, there is nothing magical about being the same age as the crucified Lord of the universe. There are no special perks or prizes. After all, if there were any "gifts" that came along with this age, they may very well be crosses. And while I would never wish for it, a cross may very well be an appropriate birthday gift for a 33 year old follower of Jesus.

A cross is a gift for the same reason that turning 33 is a gift. That is, both are opportunities to experience something Jesus experienced. This is probably the opposite of a typical understanding of our relationship to Jesus' life. When we think about the life of Jesus, perhaps we mostly think about the way Jesus' physical life as a human helps Him to relate to us. Jesus was tempted as we are tempted (yet without sin), and He knows how it feels to suffer as we sometimes suffer. Therefore, Jesus can relate to us in our temptation and suffering. This ability of Jesus to relate to us is very beautiful and true, but to stop there in our understanding of Jesus' life is to miss a far greater beauty and truth.

The most important thing about Jesus' life is not that He can relate to me, which puts me at the center of things. Rather, the most important thing about my life is that through it I might relate to Jesus. It's not just that Jesus' sufferings can help Him to understand mine. It's that my sufferings (which are infinitely less than His) can help me understand Jesus. The same is true for every one of my joys. Any joy I experience is not for my own sake, but is there to point me to Jesus, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. Ultimately, Jesus put on flesh not to conform to my image, but that I might conform to His. Therefore, anything great or small in my life that might help me relate to Jesus, whether through joy or suffering, is a profound gift.

So this is how I enter age 33 - with the hope that, by His grace, Jesus would allow me in the age of His death to participate in even more of His life.

33 is also the age of the Resurrection.

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