Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

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Many people have the misguided notion that they need to accomplish their greatest achievements by the time they are 40.  If they don’t, they feel like their life has been a failure.  That is what drives the stereotypical midlife crisis.  “If I haven’t done all I want to do by the time I am 40, I must go on a road trip to find myself, or get a Ferrari or pierce my bellybutton.”   I always find that view funny because expecting to accomplish anything truly meaningful before you are 40 is delusional.

Life is like a toolbox.  When we are first born, we may start out with a hammer.  As teenagers, we may add a wrench or two.  Then, when we are in our twenties and thirties, if we play our cards right, we might add some screwdrivers to our box.  However, those still aren’t a lot of tools.  They certainly aren’t enough with which to build a house.

As we age, the idea is that we need to continue collecting tools.  Some of those tools may be jobs skills, financial security and relationship stability.  Those are our practical tools.  Then there are the intangible tools we should be acquiring, like compassion, humility, and maturity.  Those “non-resume” tools may not be valued by the world’s standards, but they are necessary to be happy.

We shouldn’t stop collecting tools until we stop breathing.  We shouldn’t stop learning, growing and hopefully maturing until God decides that our job on this earth is done.  Until that time, He expects us to not only be collecting tools, but to be using them for the good of the world.

As we get older, and our toolbox gets fuller, we then have something truly important to contribute to the world.  If we have lived well, then our life experience has given us wisdom that no twenty-something can match.

That is why I find age discrimination in the workforce to be so bizarre.  It is completely counterintuitive to want a company run by people with zero life experience and limited emotional maturity.  But it happens all the time.  In fact, in my opinion, there are lots of jobs that shouldn’t be done by people under 40, with pastors being at the top of the list.  If the world were run my way, no one would have children until they are 30 either.  There are just some things in life that require age and maturity.

The scary thing about aging isn’t having a body that can’t do everything that it used to be able to do.  What is scary is not improving as a human being with every day.  What is scary is not gaining wisdom from past experience.  What is scary is to decide to stop growing when life isn’t over yet.

We have to always keep working at getting better, whether we are eight-years-old or eighty-years old.  Remember that if you are alive and breathing, you are here for a reason.  Figure out what that reason is, and then do what God has called you to do with all the tools at your disposal.

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