It transformed how I viewed turning forty, but it started as an ordinary field trip to the local nature center with my son’s preschool class a few years ago. A room full of curious four-year-olds, a handful of parents, and a few teachers listened to the volunteer from the nature center explain the process of making maple syrup.
Two interesting facts grabbed my attention.
One, while the collection methods of sap from maple trees have grown more sophisticated, the refinement process is basically the same. The sap is heated to evaporate the moisture leaving only pure, valuable, golden liquid.
Two, it takes forty gallons of sap to create one gallon of pure maple syrup.
The analogy of being refined and leaving behind potent sweetness and value resonates with me. Who doesn’t want to leave a legacy like that? Who doesn’t want their life to matter beyond the few years we spend on earth?
Our culture jokes about turning forty as being over-the-hill. As if glory days were as good as life gets so we ought to look back at every turn. Now, you don’t need to rush me since I still have over three years to go, but when I join other distinguished members of the forty and over society, I have a sweeter way of viewing aging.
What if, instead of riding a rocket to the grave, we were really collecting sap to be refined? Each year beyond forty would be a precious privilege to collect more raw materials to create more than that one gallon of pure syrup. There are plenty of people who don’t even get forty years in life, why should I insult them with the crazy notion that everything after forty is only decline?
Why not embrace a maple syrup mindset of aging that says turning forty is just the beginning of sweetening life for those around us with our “gallon” of refined heavenly deliciousness? I believe we can’t sweeten the lives of those around us without benefitting ourselves. At least, ultimately.
Life is extremely difficult sometimes. If it’s going to happen anyway, I’d like to not waste the difficulties that turn up the heat in my life and let God boil away all the crap – er, I mean sap – in my life to get to the good part. Not all difficulties result in refinement – that depends on my level of cooperation – so I may as well yield to the Refiner. I mean, no one wants a sappy ending, right? We want sweet, rich, potent, valuable, and good for you.
A cursory search on Google revealed maple syrup contains antioxidants (one site claimed twenty-six), boosts the immune system, and protects the heart from various cardiovascular disorders. (I know, right? Maybe Elf was on to something…)
Is there anything spiritually nutritious about forty, too? I don’t have any answers, but just for fun, I searched for “forty” in the Bible and found some incidents I found fascinating. (If you know of others, feel free to share in the comments!)
- It rained 40 days while Noah was in the ark
- Isaac was 40 yrs when he married Rebekah
- When Jacob (Israel) died, he was embalmed for 40 days
- Moses’s life can be outlined in three segments of 40 years, with milestones at each segment:
- 40 yrs when he identified with his people, the Hebrews, but helping them his own way didn’t work and he had to flee for his life
- 80 yrs, God appeared to Moses in a burning bush directing him to save the Hebrews His way (it worked)
- 120 yrs Moses died
- Moses spent 40 days on Mt. Sinai before bringing the ten commandment stone tablets down
- Joshua was 40 yrs when Moses sent him and the other spies to scout out the promised land
- The spies scouted the promised land for 40 days
- God provided Israelites manna in the desert for 40 years
- The Philistine army taunted the Israelites 40 days before David killed Goliath
- King David reigned 40 years
- Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness enduring temptations
Will you join me in letting God refine our years, our moments, whatever He chooses to give us to make something useful, valuable, and sweet for others (and ourselves)? I believe we glorify God and bring blessing to others when we choose that path. Here’s to turning 40 and beyond!