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  • Writer's pictureJoel Elliott Mooneyhan


Goodness gracious, I am forty years old today. I try to remember what 40 looked like to me ten years ago, twenty years ago, thirty years ago— and then I realize that I can actually remember things spanning that amount of time and it stops me in my tracks.

Like everyone, I am used to seeing myself in the mirror, so I have no idea “how old,” I look to others. I certainly don’t feel like I look like I thought 40-years olds looked when I was a kid. But then I realize that I have a lot more gray hair than I did even five years ago and I realize I must look 40 to more than a few people.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve not been dreading this. Getting older has never bothered me. But it’s a strange thing to realize how many years are behind me and how many are ahead. It won’t be very long now until there are fewer ahead than there are behind. Again, not dreading it, but certainly thinking a lot more about it than I ever did.

I’ve said this many times over, but one thing I’ve learned is that you never really feel like a grown up. At least, you don’t feel it the way you think you would. You never “arrive,” there. It really only ever occurs to you when something happens that need to be taken care of and then you realize that you’re the one who has to do it. It doesn’t matter whether you’re prepared or equipped or even if you have a clue—you have to do it, because you’re the grown up.

It used to be things like changing a tire on the side of the road, or helping a friend figure out how to get a couch off of a balcony. Now it’s things like learning how to be a good husband, tie a little girl’s ponytail—(I’m not very good at this), or cook meals for three—(I’m pretty good at this.)

I used to take my time getting home from work—it never used to matter when I got home, because I was going home to an empty apartment. Now, I can’t wait to get back home, because there are people waiting for me.

I used to sleep through thunderstorms. They never woke me up. Now, I wake up at the slightest hint of thunder, just in case someone else in the house gets scared.

I used to think I might be better off alone. Let me tell you—no one is better off alone. We are not made to fly solo. We need the companionship of others, to love and encourage others and to be the object of someone else’s love and encouragement. I’m not just talking about romance here—we need one another, and we wither without each other.

Some of you know exactly what I am talking about. For the rest of you, I pray that you learn it as well.

Anyways. How about some life updates?

  • I got married in the past year, and became an instant Bonus Dad. My wife is the most beautiful woman I have ever known, and she has taught me more about myself in two years than I knew in the previous thirty eight. I joke with her that I got the better end of the deal—but I mean it when I say it. My sense of myself has changed; I’m one person’s partner and another person’s third parent. I’m a provider, a confidant, a husband. I’m a storyteller, a lullaby singer, a father figure. These new identities teach me a lot about myself every day. Most of it is hard to articulate, but I can tell you that you never know how much love you have until you give it away. You never know exactly what shape love will take.

  • Some of you may have guessed from a cheeky little Facebook post a few weeks ago, my Lovely Wife and I are expecting our first child together. That in itself is another thing for the file called, “Huge Life Changes That Are Teaching Me New Things About Myself.” I can’t begin to articulate these things yet. Ask me next year, I may have a better way of articulating it.

  • I transitioned jobs and have been learning how to manage my time very differently than I did even a year ago. I still preach from time to time. Getting to share the pulpit with my Dad is and will always be a treasure to me. There are other ways for ministry to play out, as I have said many times in my life. I’ve learned not to try and pin it down to one thing, and trust that Christ is capable of working through me, even when I don’t know it's happening.

  • I still enjoy a supportive relationship with my Mom and Dad, only my appreciation for them as parents has deepened immeasurably. You appreciate parenthood a lot more when you have to fill the role yourself. You respect the challenges of sustaining a relationship and not taking a marriage for granted. You respect the challenges of trying to impart your own wisdom to the kid or kids looking to your for guidance. You pray to do your best, and you pray for grace from others when you fall short.

  • I'm in the best shape I've ever been in, at least as an adult. It helps to have someone keeping me accountable. It's amazing what cutting out Cherry Coke will do for your weight. Also, get some exercise.

So yeah. I’m forty. It sounds strange to say it out loud, but I have no complaints and I am excited to see what another year brings. There is more I have to say, and that is forthcoming over the next few days. But for now, that should do it. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading this far.

Each year, I reflect on what the previous year has taught me. You can click the following links to read what I've said on my last five birthdays.

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