I’m on the eve of another birthday. I can’t say I mind, but it is striking to contemplate being on the downslope of my 50s, barreling full-speed toward the big “six-oh”. Thinking about birthdays over the years hasn’t been too troublesome for me, but I do remember feeling a bit “rocked” when I turned 30. Seems like a long time ago now.
As a teenager about to head off to college, I read Psalm 71. I was acutely aware that my life was about to change because I was leaving the relatively insulated existence of my childhood and striking out on my own, starting with a move halfway across the country to Wheaton, Illinois. No more did I have Mom and Dad to support me—I would be working and paying my way through school. The transition was more than financial and geographical, though, and the realization that I was now the one who truly had to answer for my own choices going forward struck my teenage mind as a heavy thought. So the Psalmist’s declaration, expressed some three thousand years earlier, stirred a commitment in me, as well:
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you. (Psalm 71:5-6)
Over the years, especially on “milestone birthdays”, I have made it a point to re-read Psalm 71. It seems to capture something about the seasons of life, and all the inevitable transitions they entail. Other parts of this psalm resonate with me now, as they speak more to my current season:
Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
Even when I am old and gray,
do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
your mighty acts to all who are to come.
Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
you who have done great things.
Who is like you, God? (Psalm 71:17-19)
That’s the point I take with me beyond this birthday, and into any other year with which I am blessed. Who is like you, God, my hope and confidence, my Teacher and strength, from the days of my youth to the waning of my “gray-hair” days? No one that I have found. And what genuine comfort it is to remind myself of that through the words of this Psalm written so long ago. You have been with me each step of this journey, Lord. “My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I whom you have delivered” (Psalm 71:23).