My 40th birthday is around the corner. We talked as a family about how to celebrate. Nothing seemed to feel right to me. We have lots of trips planned around my birthday, so that was out. I’m not a big party person, so that is out. Dinner with friends? Yes, but we do that regularly. We tabled it for the day.
In the Bible 40 often signifies a time of testing or trial. A time of probation.
A few days prior to the 40th celebration discussion, Jacob asked me a question that continued stirring in me for days.
“Mom, if you knew Jesus was coming back in 2 days, what would you do?” He looked at me with inquisitive eyes as if testing me to see if I held the right answer.
“I’d begin telling everyone I know about Jesus.”
“I know. Me too. But we don’t know when He is coming. So we should be telling people all the time.”
He’s right. So why don’t we? For fear of offending? For fear of rejection? It really makes no sense though. It’s the greatest gift ever given to humanity. A hurting world that can’t seem to get along, that slays each other, that devours each other, that spews hate. We are holding the answer and we hold back.
I pondered his question. The thing is it wasn’t the first time he’s made me think in the last couple of weeks.
He sat in a church service recently and a verse entered his mind. Matthew 4:19. He didn’t know the verse but looked it up at his first opportunity.
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19
I see God moving him to share the gospel. It was because of this same child that Steve and I ended up in Haiti where we experienced the power of the Holy Spirit and watched a woman surrender her life to Christ as He led us to her in order to share the gospel.
When we heard the news of Jose Fernandez, his first comment was, “I hope he knew Jesus.” And a heavy weight descended on his heart. A burden and a hurt for the lost. Because we’ve all been lost. None of us were born Christians. He can’t remember a time of not “knowing” Jesus, but there came a time where he surrendered his life to Jesus and knowing about Jesus turned to a personal relationship with His Savior.
Since God impressed Matthew 4:19 on him, God’s been tossing it around in my own heart too. I am feeling the burden I am watching my son experience.
We’ve been reading Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom. The boys now say things like, “I want a faith like that.” Or “I want to experience the same miracles she experienced.” (Side note- this is a great family read aloud after you’ve read The Hiding Place. There is a young reader’s edition.)
Corrie said yes to God at every turn. If I’m honest, I am selective with my yes’s. I’ll say yes as long as it doesn’t infringe on my comfort zone. As long as I don’t have to sacrifice too greatly.
I shared recently about what God showed me in the pit. He’s been refining me, killing off my self-sins. The process is painful. I had no idea how full of self I was until He began showing me the depths of my heart I’d never seen.
The day following our family discussion about how to mark my 40th, God spoke to me about what to do. “Give your birthday away. To me. Selflessly.”
What does that look like? In a split second, He made it very clear it was not to do a list of good deeds. My first thought went to how I could do 40 acts of kindness or 40 good things for God. He said no. That would be too self-promoting, too easy to grow self-righteous. Too close to all those self-sins He’s working out of me ever so painfully.
I knew why He told me no. He’s teaching me that if I want to really love Him more, then I will love His people. And if I love His people, I will begin telling His people who He is. To do that, I must put myself away. Get myself out of the picture. My “self” stands in the way and cares about what people may say or think. And He says, “Lay down your self.”
So that afternoon I sat with my family on the porch and told them that God showed me how I am to celebrate my 40th birthday. It’s by giving away 40 gifts. Giving away the message of the hope I have to 40 people. I wasn’t exactly sure except that somehow or in some way I was to mark 40 by sharing the gospel. Not sharing good deeds, but sharing the good news.
As Steve and the other boys nodded along, Jacob’s eyes lit up. “Mom, I love that idea!”
The next morning I began to sense God telling me not to wait for my birthday. To begin to mark my 40th birthday now. We are a little less than 40 days away, and He said go. God confirmed through Jacob when he said, “Why don’t we just start now instead of waiting. For the next 40 days, let’s share Jesus everywhere we go.”
When God says move, He means move. When God places a desire in your heart, He won’t let it die. When the desire makes you squirm with discomfort because your pride is being poked, you can be sure God won’t stop until you learn that humility is the true seat of honor.
If I’m honest, it’s my pride that seals my lips from shouting the gospel message everywhere I go. I justify by saying that I live the gospel out for others to see. And while this is true at times, He also said “Follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.” And “Go make disciples.”
So Jacob nudged because God bumped.
This goes right along with what He’s been showing me for the last year. No platform must be built to make Him known. We can make Him known with no stage, platform, or audience. We make Him known to the very next person we encounter.
Join me for the follow up to this post (hopefully tomorrow??). Jacob and I decided that if God said start celebrating 40 now, we must obey. I’ve walked in disobedience when God asked me to follow Him, and it’s not pretty. We are choosing obedience and sharing with you here for two reasons. 1- I am now accountable to you. 2- To encourage you to let God poke you to share with the very next person the hope you have….in front of your kids.
While 40 signifies a time of testing and trial, I’ve also seen how powerful developing habits that turn into lifestyle can shape in 40 days. Day 1-10 are pretty tough. As you edge closer to 40, the discomfort is gone and it’s simply part of your life. Maybe that is why God is asking me to celebrate my 40th birthday for 40 days by giving it away. So that every day of my life becomes less about me and more about Him. Not just here where it’s comfortable, but out there in the world.