On September 22, 2010

Turning Thirty

I remember when I was in College, whenever I would meet someone in their thirties,  I would always assume they weren’t long for this world. Thirty seems like a different dimension. One in which people went to bed at 8 p.m. after watching Matlock and eating at Luby’s.

Only one of those is true.

On retrospect, I was very, very wrong. But at least I can still remember what my perception was. By the time I turn 40 the memory will go.

Yesterday I spoke at Lipscomb University’s Chapel, I got to meet a lot of students there (Let me just say, Lipscomb is doing some great stuff, The Lowry’s are some amazing people who have a vision for that school that is exciting). I was glad that my last time to preach in my 20’s was to college students…while I can still relate.

Henry James called the passage of time a “slow, reluctant march into enemy territory.” And I think I can see where he is coming from. I have dreaded this landmark for quite some time now.

For some reason, turning 30 is more of an Ebenezeer than I thought it would be. I’ve found myself being more nostalgic and hopeful the past week. And since one of my favorite disciplines is to remember what I’m thankful to God for, I thought I’d like to share that here:

  1. My Family, My parents taught me more than they thought they could. Dad taught me what selflessness looked like. Mom taught me how to love reading. They both taught me how to love Jesus and people…especially people on the fringes of society.  My brother and sister, in-laws, nieces, nephews. They taught me to love and tell stories. At Thanksgiving and Christmas and every get together in between, I always think, if I could bottle this, people would pay millions of dollars for it.
  2. Leslie, Sometimes, in my wiser moments, I still can’t believe she married me. (Remind me to tell you the story sometime). She loves God more than I ever have, and is everything I could ever hope for from a person I get to share life with.
  3. Eden and Samuel. If I’m ever having a bad day, hearing Eden sing “Jesus Loves Me” (mixed with a bit of Sesame Street) can change everything. The Best 20 minutes of my day are putting Eden down for bed each night. Samuel’s just coming into his own as a little person. He likes to wrestle, and to smile. Both give me joy.
  4. Preaching: Not many people knew what they wanted to be without doubt since they were 18. I’m so thankful that God allows me to do this. There’s not much that brings me more joy than standing up and telling God’s story. I can’t believe I get to do this for a living.
  5. Church: From that 10 person church that taught me to believe in God and that God believed in me. To Richland Hills for their forming me and loving our little family. To Highland for taking a risk on a young preacher and trusting me to listen to God and speak for Him.
  6. My friends: I really do think I’m one of the most blessed people alive here. I have the best friends in the world. People I can call at 3 in the morning, and they would drive across the country to help. At the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life” George Bailey reads the line that sums up the entire movie: “No man is a failure who has friends.” I’m starting to realize how true that is.

One of the most haunting verses in Luke is where Jesus says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” The past week I have realized that I’ve got a lot to live up to.

If God gives me another 30 years, I’d like to be a better Jesus-follower, a better preacher, a better son, father, husband and friend. But if life ended tomorrow I am starting to realize that I’ve already lived a pretty full one.

Which is good. Because after all, I’m in my 30’s now.

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  • http://douglasryoung.net Doug Young

    Congrats, bro. Hope you have a good one!

  • Dan Gill

    For me, 33 was my Ebenezer age. I was in a job I hated, making no foward progress, and I had a bad time. And, yes, I can still remember that, though it was almost 20 years ago.

    30 is nothing. You’ll get by. Good goals, by the way.

  • KO

    Happy Birthday, sweet friend! (I knew it was somebody’s birthday today). Hey you know what else it is besides your 30th? It’s our 10-year friend anniversary! I think it was probably right around this time 10 yrs ago we decided to co-lead our first SB campaign (bc they wouldn’t let me lead one myself). The rest is history, isn’t it? Talk about someone who taught me a lot and through whom so much of the goodness of the Lord has come to me – that’s you! Thank you, Jonathan. Love and miss your family.

  • Kathy

    Posted this earlier today in the previous entry. Now it has a more apt setting for my good wishes. [Remember, dear Jonathan – remember I’m a brat, right?] lol

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    09/22 2010

    Guess this is the best place to speak my mind for today, Jonathan, so DUCK!! 😉


    May this decade be one of great memories, of growing many new friendships, in a house you and Leslie really feel is home! [still praying for that one! ]

    May Highlanders always be gracious and loving with you and your beautiful family, encouraging and uplifting to all of you!

    And most importantly, may God pour out His loving blessings on you and family throughout this year of beginning 30s and onward in all your life!

    We love you and are SOOOO blessed to have you with us at Highland!!

    Again, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, dear preacher/pastor Jonathan!!! :)

    In His eternal love, grace and mercy!!

    * * * * * * * * * * *
    Adding after reading you entry – What a blessed 30 y/o you are, to know so clearly what your blessings are and what your goals are. You are an amazing now not-so-young preacher/pastor. ~grin~

    May you be blessed as you have blessed all of us!!

    In His great and eternal Light of love and grace!!

  • http://lec03b.blogspot.com Lauren Cunningham

    I LOVED this post! Happy birthday, Jonathan! I am absolutely thrilled you are in Abilene and that God has given me the gift of sitting under your teaching! I love the passion, energy, boldness, and humility the Lord had given you. My prayer is that God will begin to author a sweet friendship between you, Leslie, and I in the coming years. (Oh, and you and Josh the Boss constantly switch places from being favorite preacher number one for me!) can’t wait to get to know you more and more and for the ways God will use you and yours to bless others! You are loved, friend!

  • http://feetwasher.blogspot.com/ Philip Cunningham III

    I had no idea you were born precisely 24 years before Oceanic 815 crashed on the Island. Heavy!…

    Welcome to the 30’s. I’ll join you in a month

  • David Lang

    Happy 30th, and Ecclesiastes 12:1-5 to you, JS!

  • http://www.changedwithin.blogspot.com Maynard

    Yes, my old friend, you are a very blessed man indeed. I am one year ahead of you, chronologiclly speaking, and I dreaded 30 like hell, However, I have found that 30 provided much of what I had prayed and longed for in my 20s. I totally believe that 20s are the preparation for your 30s. Stuff I had believed for but not seen in my 20s showed up in my 30th year and I’m believing that what hasn’t manifested yet will continue to follow in these next 9.

    Thanks for sharing your life. You’re an awesome example. Love ya, buddy.

  • Brent

    Your getting old man. Preach all you can . . . while you can . . . where ever you can. Until you can’t.