“Do you know how old Tim Keller was when he wrote and published his first book?”
The room filled with mostly millennials, stared blankly at one of Tim Keller’s close colleagues.
“Tim’s first full-length book was written at age 47.”
The room’s eyes opened wide at the reality—such a prolific writer, who had written multiple books on spiritual growth and maturity, didn’t pen his first full book until 47 years of age.
Well, what in the world was he doing for 47 years? A great question. Tim’s colleague talked about that, too.
A Conference and The Christ
I’ll never forget sitting in a Biola University classroom—listening to the breakout session of a Praxis Labs conference and sitting among other entrepreneurially-minded college students.
A student kicked off Q&A with a question about Tweeting. I forget the exact phrasing. But his question was along the lines of knowing When to Tweet. Or, more pointedly, “When is it an appropriate time to release your voice into the world?”
The speaker’s response? See the question that kicked off this blog post.
The conversation that ensued was fascinating. And I’ve thought about that breakout session so many times. Tim’s friend and colleague went on to discuss a more well-known individual, Jesus of Nazareth. The Risen Christ.
“If Jesus took 30 years before releasing his voice into the world, what might that mean for us?”
Two numbers thrown out to a group of individuals ready to “change the world” tomorrow if we could have. What is 30? What is 47?
When a speaker brings those kinds of numbers into a millennial mix, the only response can be described as perplexed.
Yet the truth and wisdom in his words stuck with me for quite some time. Obviously they have—I’m only now writing about it five years later. But I think his words speak to something deeper than a mere lesson on patience.
How would you define a “season of life”?
Would you put a timeframe on it? Can a “season” be a few months? Years? Decades?
Are there seasons within seasons? And what is the overall significance in recognizing a season, ending a season, and moving onto the next?
As I sit on the threshold of 30, that number spoken at the conference is a little more of a reality. At 25? Twenties still ahead of me! Now, the clock is ticking . . .
And I mean this wholeheartedly: I have never felt more ready or excited for the months and years ahead—my 30’s included.
To consider the aforementioned questions on seasons, I think about one of those questions in particular: Are there seasons within seasons?
That’s the question I’ve been thinking about lately. And one piece of imagery that’s helped me answer “Yes, there are seasons within seasons” is that of Babushka Dolls. You know those dolls that stack inside one another? There might be four or eight wooden dolls inside of one another. It’s a fun little stacking game—especially among toddlers.
With that frame of mind, I’ll be writing the second half of this blog post as the biggest Babushka Doll my life comprises. Instead of examining small seasons within other seasons, I choose to examine the last 30 years of my life in a few words. Between ages 30-60 I expect many smaller seasons to come, but I think to look forward we must truly consider the past.
To save time, effort, and energy, I will not look at the smaller seasons as much as the more holistic 30 years and what got me to where I am today.
The First 30 Years
Before examining my life, let’s take one more look at the life of Jesus.
Thirty years of his life—we hardly know a lick of what those years comprised. Most of what we know is bound in three-ish years of public ministry.
“And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
Luke 2:52 is one of the only statements on Jesus’ life from childhood to age 30.
To increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Yet if we turn to his life and ministry—in the parts of the bible we do know about and can read about—those “red letters” might reveal more about his first 30 years than we acknowledge.
Jesus spent time with God.
Jesus spent time reading scripture.
Jesus spent time as a faithful businessman.
Jesus loved those closest to him with fierce loyalty.
The book Atomic Habits is bouncing around lately, and for good reason—humans seem to operate best when there are sustained elements of discipline and execution on a day-to-day basis. But what about reverse-engineering habits?
In other words: What about examining a successful individual and then looking at the habits that made him or her successful?
Back to my 30-year-old Babushka Doll. For I’m now forced to ask: What habits made the man I am today, and how do I want to cultivate those habits (or create new ones!) for the good of my next 30-years on earth?
The first reality I must address: I’m not Jesus. My last 30 years of life did not include time in solitude or scripture on a daily basis. But as I reflect on what made me who I am today, there are numerous lessons, habits, and disciplines that have risen to the top.
These Are Coming With Me
For as many “lessons, habits, and disciplines” that made up my first 30 years, I pray to The Lord not all of them make their way into my 30’s.
Instead, here are a few I hope burrow their way inside of my routine.
Note: Recently, with a group of like-minded business colleagues, we discussed “The *LASTNAME* Process.” In other words, we discussed The Severns Process or whatever your last name is—and the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month process that makes you . . . you.
- Exercise. In some form or fashion. Every day.
- Handwriting—journaling in the morning.
- Reading the bible at whim.
- Reading books at whim.
- Calling friends and family on my commute.
- Weekly date night with my bride, Lauren.
- Meals together as a family.
- Traveling as a family.
- Not gossiping about others behind their back.
- Using post-it notes to brainstorm new ideas.
- Time spent in silence and solitude.
These are a few aspects I hope always make up The Severns Process. These are aspects I don’t want to leave behind.
There are certainly more. But there’s a reason the 10 on that list are the first ones I thought to rattle off. Yet it’s the last bullet point I think is the one I covet most for my thirties and beyond.
Why? Because I think my first 30 years were filled with So. Much. Damn. Noise.
If my life is on a crash course with my age-30-sized Babushka Doll (which I’ll meet on April 23rd, 2022), then I hope this new season I’m stepping into isn’t stepping into silence as much as it is confidence. And I hope that confidence is only brought about by way of solitude—a deep, internal solitude.
Are we able to experience solitude even if we’re surrounded by others? Or is solitude marked only by escaping into the mountains?
Because I’ve experienced solitude in the arms of my family on our couch in the morning, I’m confident solitude is possible in the presence of others.
Yet I only think that kind of solitude is possible if it’s preceded by a different kind of alone-ness.
I believe Jesus was able to carry on from age 30 to the end of his life because each day, even in the presence of others, he experienced a resounding solitude, confidence, and assurance. And I believe part of what helped him get there was a process that worked for him—waking up early, working on furniture design, time spent with loved ones.
In the end, when it came time to release his voice into the world, he was ready.
And even though I feel ready for the next decades-long season, I only pray my voice is marked by a similar sense of humility, curiosity, and childlike wonder.