I turned 40 a few years ago.
I know—you can’t believe it. I look too young! Thanks, brothers.
There was no crazy “mid-life crisis” or any significant life changes, as turning 40 didn’t seem like that big a deal. As of 2023, the average life expectancy in Canada is 82 years, so 40 isn’t even really the hypothetical halfway point for most of us anymore.
Here’s what did throw me for a middle-aged loop:
Last year, my eldest child turned old enough to start attending youth ministry at our church.
Honestly, this milestone affected me far more. I did the math on my fingers, over and over again—my girl was hitting Junior High age, and my son is just one school year behind her, so I had 7 more years until she graduated high school and 8 more years till he will.
And while of course, parenting doesn’t end when your kids finish high school, and while of course, many kids remain home after high school, and while, of course, 7-8 years is still a significant amount of time, nonetheless — when I framed it against how fast the previous 12 years had flown by since her birth, this was the thing that made me feel both old and reflective.
And also, I felt an urgency to consider how I was spending my time—what was left of it.
From the moment your first child is born, you become a dad, and a clock starts ticking.
Although a life-long journey, you have a limited time with maximum influence in your children’s lives.
At first, you and Mom are by far the most crucial influences (and Mom really wins the first number of years, if we’re honest). But while parents have the most sway in a young life, teachers, friends, coaches, church leaders, etc., soon begin to impact.
As the child gets older and achieves increasingly more age-appropriate independence, the parental influence, while always ultimate, is not always the loudest voice. Eventually, the children break into adulthood, and while parents can always have impact, the kids leave the nest and make their way in the world.
These thoughts sent me spinning as my “little” girl jumped out of the car and ran into the church building on her first youth night. Of course, she’d been growing up this whole time, but this moment seemed significant.
The Lord holds my life in His hands, and I have no idea how much time I have left on earth, and honestly, that doesn’t bother me much (Psalm 90:12). I trust Him.
But my time left with my children at home, where I have the most influence I will ever have, affects me significantly.
It is both a joy and a source of grief for every parent as they reflect on God’s grand design, that ultimately, a child will leave their father and mother and forge out on their own (Genesis 2:24).
Many years ago, on a snowy winter day in Sudbury, Ontario, I became a father for the first time, and a clock started ticking. At one point, my church gave parents access to a parenting app, which, among other tools like teaching and devotionals, had a literal countdown clock that showed the time remaining until your child turned 18. For those curious, you can capture the same idea on a page like this one (I won’t be held responsible for any emotional impact these numbers may have on your heart/soul).
Turning 40 was a breeze compared to the challenge of watching my kids get closer to adulthood. It called me (and calls me) to consider some very important biblical questions, which I encourage all dads and grandpas to consider as well:
How am I doing at “training them up” in the way that they should go, so that when they are old, they will not turn from it? (Proverbs 22:6)
Am I making God’s Word central in my home, “diligently” teaching it to my children, making it an ongoing and regular place of discussion? (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
Am I “bringing them up in the training and instruction of the Lord?” (Ephesians 6:4)
Am I showing them compassion and, in so doing, modelling for them what God’s compassion looks like? (Psalm 103:13)
Am I teaching and showing them what it means to trust and follow Jesus, since anyone who calls themselves a Christian actually needs to live like Christ? (1John 2:6)
These and other questions like them affect me significantly these days, and it’s actually been a really good thing. If the answer is ever “no,” then that just means there are ways that I need to step up. These questions are not shame-inducers; they are motivators.
A clock is ticking, and I can do nothing to change it or slow it.
What I can do is the most I can, with the time I have.
I can honour the Lord and love my family by giving my best effort to my kids. I can love them by giving them that time while I have it. I can give them my all in many ways, including showing them who Jesus is, and then, ultimately, I can trust Him with the rest.