One of Joyce and my favorite stories involves Ira North, a well known preacher when we were young marrieds. We heard him speak about strong marriages at a seminar, and he told this story on himself.

When he turned 40, he bought a motorcycle and all the personal gear that went with cycling. His wife decided she was not going to let him ride alone while he was having “a mid-life crisis,” so she bought herself the personal gear to ride with him. When we heard him speak, he was way past 40, past his “crisis,” and past riding a motorcycle.

As he told that story (and it was hilarious—when Ira told it, it was always hilarious), he stressed this point. Whoever you intend to be as a person (personality, attitudes, outlook, etc.), work on it seriously before you are 40. Because, “Whoever you is at 40, you will only get isier!” (Do not expect something to come along and change you against your will.)

I do not know that 40 years of age is a “lock in” age. I do know: (a) change becomes harder to handle after 40 than before 40. Before 40 we thrive on change as we seriously wonder how the world could be so stupid as not to see the value of change. (b) After 40, we are more prone to defend than to discover. What we think “should be” is obviously good. Things differing from our perspective are bad. “Do you know what that will lead to” is a good destination prior to 40, but a bad destination after 40.

My point is this: there is never a time in life when you do not need to give careful attention to (a) who you are and (b) what you intend to become. If you are a grouch the first 50 years of your life, you likely will be a grouch till you die. If you are kind the first 60 years of your life, you likely will die as an unselfish, thoughtful person. You cannot live the lifestyle of a selfish person, or a complaining person, or a contentious person for years and years and suddenly, without effort, be transformed into a different person overnight.

Yes, repentance is possible. Yes, sobering awareness is possible. Yes, conversion is possible. Yes, redirection is possible. However, those things occur because you choose for them to occur. Such things do not happen without you, but because of you with God’s strength. Ultimately, it is true of all of us—we are who we choose to be. That choice was made slowly with years of personal focus and behavior. However, in the majority of instances we make that decision (or excuse ourselves from making it).

God provides the strength. We each make the choice. If you do not like yourself, talk to yourself. If you like who you are, thank God for the strength and guidance. Avoid the temptation to judge (every person’s circumstances are different). Choose to encourage!

Remember: You have to live with you for the rest of your life. And so does everyone else! Let God through Jesus teach you how to be a joy to be around.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 17 November 2005

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