40 Thoughts As I Turn 40

This past Sunday was my 40th birthday (which I happen to share also with my 13 year old son, Grant).

Colin Rowley

As a way of reflecting on my long, unbroken track record of unsurpassed mediocrity, here is a list of things I’ve learned, discovered, and experienced, and that I now think — one for each year of living. Some of these are with some levity, while others only came after several mistakes and hard lessons. All of it came by God’s continued work and grace in my life.

  1. The age when you are most useless (0-4 yo) is also the age when you get the most compliments.
  2. 40 years of living and I’m basically still that same little kid who wants to be loved by everybody. Except now I’m fat.
  3. I was spanked as a kid many times, and rightly so. When I was spanked, it was often done in a very calm manner and in love by my father. Likewise, I’ve learned as a father that discipline is the most effective when done in love and NEVER in the heat of anger. I’ll never forget that one time I used the garden hose to rip up my blacktop driveway. My parents were so upset that they had my big brother administer the punishment who was a grown adult by that time. I deserved a good whopping, I’m sure. But it added salt on the wound to have one of your siblings do it. He enjoyed it, I assume. 
  4. At the age of 14, I decided to give my entire life to Jesus. Ever since, it’s been a daily battle to truly surrender it to him. 
  5. I’m living proof that effective ministry in a church is all of about the faithful preaching of God’s Word and the fellowship of God’s people, not about fun and games, attractive people, flare, aesthetics, an active youth group, and a cool experience. I met Jesus in a country church in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa – a one hour drive from home full of old farmers. I was 1 of 3 kids in my youth group. But, the pastor was faithful to preach and teach the Bible, and I’ll never forget the moment when church went from boring to amazingly interesting in a matter of 2 weeks after the Holy Spirit moved in my life. What is ironic is my job here at the Bible Church has much to do with designing and creating an aesthetic experience. Go figure!
  6. There is always a new battle to face. I do not struggle with lust as badly as I did when I was a younger man—praise God! – but this gluttony thing wins more days than I do.
  7. Boiled crawfish (rightly seasoned) is the greatest food on God’s dirty earth. (Texas BBQ is very close 2nd. Tex-Mex is 3rd.) And that God would pack something so delicious into something so ugly, is just like him. A picture of the gospel, for sure.
  8. The best and deepest thoughts happen while I’m sitting outside. Likewise, I never feel closer to God when I stare up at the night sky and marvel at the universe. To think He’s bigger than that and yet HE CARES FOR LIL ME is something I still can’t fathom. To be clear, a Biblical worldview of the size of God is: God – Universe – Angels – Humans. And the gap between each is not necessarily small. Christ, the glory of heaven, humbled himself hugely when he came in human form. The more we learn about the size of the universe, the greater our understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and the greater we can understand Christ’s love for us.
  9. That moment at the beginning of “Up,” when the film walks through the old man’s life with his wife, gets me every time. I cry like a baby. Also, the scene in Toy Story 3 when the toys are all plunging down towards the fiery furnace. Tear jerker!… BTW, The most unbelievable thing in “Toy Story” saga is the fact that Sid wins at a claw machine not just once, but twice in a row.
  10. Growing up, it really seemed like piranhas were going to be a bigger danger in life than they really are.
  11. When you cringe inside when your mom asks you how to do something on her phone, don’t laugh. She taught you how to wipe your behind.
  12. Dating as a teen REALLY is a bad idea. Yes, I started dating my wife at 14, and I’m so glad and blessed to have known her so long, but I wish I could go back and just had been her best friend. Read Jay’s book if you can on “Sex, Dating and Relationships.” There’s a lot of Biblical wisdom in that book that I wish I would have known when I was a teenager.
  13. We think other peoples lives are better than ours because we compare their highlights to our behind-the-scenes.
  14. Being an adult is having the money to buy the toys you wanted as a kid, but spending it on stuff like detergent.
  15. You do not automatically become wiser when you age, sometimes you just become more confident in being an idiot.
  16. There’s a major chance that you’re apart of someone’s favorite memory and you don’t even know it. So, be the type of person that has meaningful conversations and goes deep with someone and is NOT afraid to call them out when they do something stupid. Just CALL them out in love IN PRIVATE, not like a mean idiot IN PUBLIC.
  17. Boys are definitely different than girls… and GIRLS are better than boys in a million and one ways. 
  18. On the subject of boys and girls, guys have a tendency to drop all of their friendships when they have decided to make a girl the nucleus of their life. DON’T FALL INTO THIS. IT’S A TRAP!!!
  19. I truly feel sorry for today’s kids and their potential to make HUGE money management mistakes. The culture of HAVE IT NOW, PAY FOR IT LATER will likely be even worse than it was when I was young. Why? I had to wait for 2 weeks for something to arrive by mail when I ordered it out of a catalog. Today, Amazon is at my door in two days.
  20. I wish I had spent more time in books than on my Nintendo. 
  21. Being married might be the most sanctifying thing in your life, if you’re doing it right. It definitely is the most sanctifying thing in your life, if you’re doing it wrong.
  22. You’re not truly comfortable with someone until you can sit next to them in silence and it’s not awkward.
  23. Luther’s first thesis of his 95 Theses was “All of life is repentance.” So is all of marriage.
  24. It’s good to have standards and expectations. It’s better to have grace.
  25. The key to having grace is remembering that you fall much shorter from God’s standard than your spouse does yours, but God is laying out fresh mercies for you every morning anyway. We act more strictly than God when we presume to be in his position.
  26. It is much harder to love your spouse when you’re constantly focused on how they are not as you-centered as you are.
  27. It gets worse before it gets better. Don’t give up. Some of our marriage’s deepest valleys were followed by our tallest peaks.
  28. Having someone who knows just how messed up you are, how dumb and foolish, how forgetful and stubborn, just how versatile your stupidity is, who sees how awful you look naked, who hears your chewing and snoring and burping and your bathroom sounds, who sees your waxy Q-tips and your dirty underwear and yet still says, “I love you,” is amazing for your soul.
  29. My wife’s laugh is my favorite sound in the world.
  30. A close second is my girls’ laughter (sorry, Jack and Grant).
  31. Just some good general rhythms: devotions every night, church every Sunday, bedtime routines, and reading books together. These little things add up to be greater than the sum of their parts in your kids’ hearts, I think.
  32. I think we tend to always mess up the first one a little bit (Sorry, Jack). By #4, the whole baby thing was a piece of cake, but unfortunately we stopped just when it was getting easy.
  33. I only lose my temper with my kids when they’re not acting like I’m the center of the universe.
  34. It goes by really fast. It’s a cliché because it’s true.
  35. I’m convinced the best way to make your kids feel secure is to be passionately in love with your spouse, especially kissing, hugging, and being silly together in front of them.
  36. I don’t think I should say any more about parenting. My kids are still under revision.
  37. Some of the most meaningful moments of spiritual growth in my life so far have taken place with older mentors. Get yourself a mentor!!! Don’t wait for them to ask you. You MUST ask them!
  38. Don’t underestimate the power of God’s Word. Daily reading and memorization of the Bible, keeping a prayer journal, and bible study with others really will change your life.  
  39. I experience doubt often. Don’t let anyone tell you doubt is a bad thing. What is bad is sitting in it without someone who can be a critic and be honest with you to tell you when you’re thinking like an idiot. A good Christian friend (or spouse) will be a good compass in your life to point you back to TRUE north.
  40. 15,000 people die every day. Don’t wait one more minute before putting your faith in Jesus. P.S. Not even faith is something that will earn you God’s favor. Why? Faith is a gift of God (Eph 2). The only thing you bring to the gospel is the sin that made Jesus sacrifice necessary. So, be sorry for your sin, give it to him, and turn from its power.


Many of these came from Reddit’s Shower Thoughts (@rshowerthoughts).

  1. Going grey is your body’s hair printer running out of colored ink.
  2. Life could be a lot worse. Hair could feel pain.
  3. The older you get, the more you understand Squidward.
  4. Isn’t it weird that we have one hand that knows how to do everything and then one hand that just sits there like “Idk, is THIS how to hold a pencil?”
  5. The real winner of an internet debate is the one who came to their senses and stopped responding.
  6. The worst part about being an adult is that no one cares what your favorite dinosaur is. Mine is triceratops in case you’re interested.
  7. Thank goodness we don’t grow hair in our knee pits.
  8. Gambling addiction hotlines would do so much better if every fifth caller was a winner  
  9. You’re officially old when movies that came out when you were a kid are getting remade. Disney is RUINING all of my favorite kids movies!
  10. In about 30 years, music in nursing homes is going to be awesome.