As I was coming to terms with turning 50, my thoughts wandered back to a long-ago conversation:
It was daybreak on a February morning in 1989. The weather was minus 10-degrees, and the wind was blowing as I was walking over the Mississippi River bridge. I was with one of my roommates headed to a sophomore accounting class at the University of Minnesota.
As the frost was nearly sealing our eyes shut, my friend was complaining about the futility of college. He was bemoaning that this suffering moment was a waste of time. I responded, “I know exactly why I’m here. I know what I’m going to do. I am focused on the dollar signs…”
Focused on winning
From the time I was in 6th grade and bought a lawn mower and weed eater, knocking on neighbors’ doors to cut their grass, I was focused on “business”. I wanted to succeed. I wanted to win.
I completed college and graduate school. I now work in finance and am happily married 25 years, with four beautiful children.
I had climbed and conquered the mountain which I had set my eye upon from an early age. But God began to open my eyes that I was short changing myself and others–my life was too isolated and incomplete.
Thoughts on turning 50
Decades later, I began to reflect on my journey while approaching my 50th birthday. As a somewhat shy and reserved person who hates attention, I cringed at the idea of a having a birthday party.
At the prodding of my wife, Mary, I decided to host a celebration, as a way of giving back to the wonderful people in our life.
Preparing for this event, where I would mark the huge milestone of turning 50, and what I would say to my friends, I was forced to take inventory of my 50-year journey, both the good and the not-so-good. It was hard to admit that in so many ways I was the same 19-year-old wanting to “win”.
Facing the Second Mountain
During the month of turning the big FIVE-O, I was reading David Brooks’ book, The Second Mountain. God used the book to grab me and shake me like a football coach grabs his player’s jersey during a halftime dressing down.
Brooks’ 365-page book describes how our First Mountain in life is about career wins, status, the house, marriage, the process of “being somebody”. Brooks described his mistakes and regrets and the resulting suffering from his First Mountain climb.
But when he awoke and discovered the Second Mountain, he became genuinely alive. It was if his life turned from black-and-white to color.
His journey up the Second Mountain of life was about forgetting independence and discovering dependence, to be utterly enmeshed in a web of warm relationships. It was an awakening to the value of intimacy, devotion, responsibility and commitment to others in every sense.
The Second Mountain was about empathy, about immersion in others. The Second Mountain is becoming born again, AGAIN.
The 50th Birthday Bash
As the time approached for my party, I wanted to use this opportunity to convey to treasured friends what God was speaking to me. It was my hope that I could provide a glimpse of the Second Mountain before me.
As a means of preempting the “roasting” or “toasting” that usually accompanies turning 50, I seized the microphone to have some fun but also to say what God was chiseling into my heart:
“I will tell you what is special: It’s the relationships and the bonds that we share together. Our lives if lived isolated have little value, but our lives together have infinite value.
The world tells us to want independence, to be true to ourselves – but the reality is that we all really want INTERdependence – to be enmeshed in warm relationships, intimacy with others, commitment to something greater.
It’s in emptying ourselves of ourselves and getting lost in the love and passion that we have for doing this journey together…this is what we carry into eternity.
It’s laboring every day and immersing ourselves in what we were designed to do, for the sake of the journey, not for the end itself.
The Golden Pot at the end of the Rainbow is here in this room. The treasure is sitting and standing next to you.
I also want more than ever to grab the future and pull it forward. I want to close the door on past hurts, disappointments, regrets, the fears, the insecurities; there’s so much life to give, people to know better.
Age often robs people of excitement and purpose. But age cannot take away ANYONE’s hope when they are looking through the lens of eternity.”
My Second Mountain Dwellers
I am fortunate to have two men in my life who seemed to have been born on the Second Mountain. They skipped the empty gratification of the First Mountain and decided to fast-forward to the good part, the very marrow of God’s best life.
My friend Shawn, a pastor at my community church, in his early 30’s forfeited his emerging career at a multinational corporation to selflessly shepherd others. He adopted two sibling Foster toddlers, while he and his wife regularly nurture and care for a seemingly endless stream of Foster babies, and to our congregation and community.
The other Second Mountain champion is my brother, Doug, who gave up his career in sales to minister to others almost every waking hour, including his adopted children from Africa, China, and a precious special needs son.
We don’t have to wait to turn 50 to get on the Second Mountain
- Believe that God will provide. The present circumstances can be an anchor, preventing much needed change. We think we need to provide for ourselves and for others. But, just like a person parachute jumping from a plane, we must believe that God will be there for us (and others who depend on us), when we pull the ripcord. It feels unsafe, but jumping off causes new life to begin.
“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27
- Enter your new world now, right where you are. You do not need to be a pastor, quit your career, or do what’s unnatural. Awakening to the richness of ministering to others is as natural as the wind blowing in the sails of a sailboat. We just need to avail our eyes, mind, and heart to God’s direction and let it happen.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17
- Let yourself be imperfect. Changing often comes in daily, tiny increments. Letting yourself stumble, but always bouncing back and being guided by His principles is what gives renewal, energy, motivation and life.
“Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,” Philippians 3:13
Coming to terms with turning 50 can be an ongoing conversation
Life is short and so precious that we must stop, connect, and constantly reconnect with others. We must escape the mundane and the ordinary to reflect on what’s extraordinary about each other and about what God has given us. Let us tackle the Second Mountain, and let God conquer our hearts!
To read more on personal growth: Facing Obstacles
For information on ordering The Second Mountain: https://www.amazon.com/Second-Mountain-David-Brooks/dp/0812993268/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0