On my twenty-fifth year

What did I think of 25-year olds when I was 12? They were a different set of people, more mature than my playmates, and I couldn't imagine being like one of them. They spoke in deep voices, had facial hair they occasionally shaved, and laughed at jokes I didn't get. They were old and tall and could unscrew bottle covers singlehandedly.

You see, as a child, I didn't think I'd ever reach 25. Either I'd die early or, worse, go insane. My greatest fear then was that I'd lose my sanity by the time I got to high school. This paranoia began when a dirty, insane man walked across the street, and one of my aunts warned me that if I didn't get enough rest from studying or reading or scribbling—the presumption was that too much intelligence led to certain psychiatric disorders—I'd turn out to be just like him. I was relieved because I was still able to preserve my mental stability by the time I graduated in high school. My worries eventually melted away when I got to University, where insanity was hailed as a virtue rather than an illness.

I turned 25 last April 22. I'm really stunned: I am 25! And while I'm not yet dead, I think I may be partly insane—not that I consider myself smart; it's just that I'm surrounded by equally crazy family and friends.

I intentionally booked my flight to Bukidnon days before my birthday so I'd have some quiet time alone. Birthdays are the best time for prayer and reflection. How has my life been? How have I changed? After all, as a good friend put it, I've lived a quarter of a century. Assuming that I'd die at 60 (which, correct me if I'm wrong, is the average life span of a Filipino male), I only have 35 years left on earth.

So there I was, on a cold Sunday evening in Bukidnon, crickets chirping in the background, an old house all to myself, reviewing the barrage of birthday greetings online, and thanking God for each person who somehow remembered. On the other hand, I was also reading a book written by Lou Priolo entitled, Pleasing People: How Not To Be 'An Approval Junkie'. The author then quoted the puritan, Richard Baxter, who wrote:

Oh what a mercy is an upright heart!—That renounces the world and everything in it that stands in competition with his God. And who takes God to be his God indeed; and to be his Lord, his Judge, his Portion, and his All: who in temptation remembers that God is watching, and in all his duty is motivated and ruled by the will and pleasure of his Judge; and considers the observation and thoughts of man as he would the presence of a bird or beast (unless piety, justice, or love requires him to have respect for man as God may require); who when men applaud him as a person of exceptional godliness or holiness is apprehensive and fearful lest the all-knowing God should think otherwise of him than his applauders: and who when under all the criticisms, reproaches, and slanders of men (even though good men might be tempted to thus abuse him) can live in peace, resting upon the approbation of his God alone, and can rejoice in his justification by his righteous judge and gracious Redeemer, though the insignificant criticisms of man condemn him.

Truly I cannot understand how any other man than this can live a life of true and solid peace and joy. If God's approbation and favor don't give you peace, nothing can rationally give it to you. If the pleasing of God doesn't satisfy you, though men, though good men, though all men should be displeased with you, I don't know how or when you will ever be satisfied.

As I read this, I felt a pang of discontent—the same unease I feel about myself whenever I read about Enoch who walked with God all the days of his life (Genesis 5:24), about David who was called a “man after God's own heart” (Acts 13:22), about Paul who boasted in nothing else except in Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:14), and about our Lord Himself who loved His Father perfectly.

And I realized that was what I wished for on my 25th birthday: I wanted the Lord to make me an upright man. O, that God would grant me a heart that rejoices in truth and love and holiness, a heart that seeks after His own!

I still have so many jagged edges. I struggle with a lot of things. And day after day, I'm reminded of how sinful a man I am—in my thoughts, words, and deeds. But I rejoice and take comfort in the fact that, more than 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ chose to die for all my sins on that wooden cross, gave me new life, and is daily changing me to be more like Him.

So what do I think of 25-year olds now that I'm 25? I think the rest of them look more mature, possess more facial hair, speak in deeper voices, and can unscrew bottle lids singlehandedly, often without breaking into a sweat. I am sorry to tell you that I still don't look—and act—these parts specifically. Just this afternoon, someone just mistook me for a high school student.

2 thoughts on “On my twenty-fifth year”

  1. Hey, I didn't know it was your birthday. Belated happy birthday, Lance. :)

    It's strange to read that you struggle with being upright, as you've always struck me as a thoroughly decent person. But I suppose it gets to even the best of us. May you be fulfilled, Lance, and may you enjoy [most of] the process.

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