I was asked recently how I felt about turning 33. It's not really a milestone birthdate. No one really does much celebrating of such an in-between age.
A friend of mine sent me a picture of my 26th birthday earlier this week. That year, my friends kidnapped me and dressed me up in the craziest clothes and toured me around to all kinds of places with extremely embarrassing tasks to complete. And I loved it...nothing really important about that age, but the love of really great friends made that birthday perfect.
My first year in Ghana, I turned 29 years old. We were living in downtown Doryumu, and I was still caring for Edwin, my sleep frequently interrupted with his cries. John and Stacy took me out that day, just me and them. We went and ate pizza and went to a movie, my first time seeing a movie in Ghana. I remember the sweetness of that day, another in-between year.
And when I turned 30, I was adamant that I wanted to celebrate in style. My friend Christy met me in Australia and I celebrated my 30th with a ten day trip to Melbourne (with a few days of fun in Sydney) with friends from a group called YGAP. It was an amazing trip and built some pretty awesome friendships. That was a milestone birthday!
Despite all that, the question has kept me thinking. I keep being brought back to the one guy who changed the world in his 33rd year. Crowds seemed to follow him everywhere he went. He had this quiet presence that didn't demand change, but simply offered it freely. He loved without limits. He did things that people had never seen before.
And then...he died. And it didn't make sense.
Everyone who knew him, even those who had only heard of him...they were suddenly confused. Hope disappeared as easily as it had come.
But, they didn't see. They didn't fully see.
Jesus needed to die...he needed to be the perfect sacrifice...and he needed to defeat the enemy..to regain the power that was always His in the first place...to tear the curtain that had separated us from God...to make a way to the Father that loves us too much to continue to live in separation.
And when He rose from the grave, it had all been accomplished. Everything he set out to do was done.
It was his 33rd year that changed it all.
For some reason, I have some sense of that too.
Not that this is the year that I will change the world (for what can I change on my own? and what can I do but impact my own little world of influence?), but that this year is a turning point year. It's not something to reach towards, but something to look back on and see all that came in that time, in that season, in that year.
As leadership here at City of Refuge, we have been praying that God will take us further in, that He would open our eyes to see what He sees. And it's starting. And honestly, our hearts are breaking because what we see is so utterly broken and what we feel is so hard. And even if this is just the tiniest portion of God's heart that we are now experiencing, that we are beginning to see...I can only imagine what God's whole heart sees and feels.
It throws me back into a posture of leaning on His strength. I cannot handle this in my own strength. I need Him. I need the help of His Church, His good people.
And I see that turning point out ahead, a memorial of sorts, pointing out that there is something new on the horizon, a new breakthrough, a new level of intimacy, a new trust.
Here we go.