In his mind’s eye, he sees a younger man, although the mirror presents a different image. The mirror makes clear the passage of time and offers no shelter from the reality of age.

He isn’t troubled by the graying hair or the deepening lines around his eyes, but sometimes he’s troubled that they tell a story divergent from the one he had planned. The younger man never considered the years beyond 30. It wasn’t that the timeline stopped at that age, but that it simply grew dark. 35, 40, 45, 50, and beyond…those were the ages of parents and grandparents. Those days held no clear place in the narrative he wrote for himself.

With 30 more than a few years behind him, he’s adjusting to a new story.

He was a hero in his old story, much like the heroes he admired. He knew in his bones that at 30, the world would be his. Or at least the small slice of it that he hoped to occupy. He saw others who seemed to have it made by then. They were angry, talented young men, men whose footsteps shook the earth and left a wide imprint. People listened to those men, and the younger man knew he would be one of them.

But he didn’t have their talent. Or perhaps he didn’t have their anger. Maybe his story just moved in a different direction, each chapter introducing new characters and new twists that interfered with the story he had constructed. His story is far earthier than the one he dreamed about as a younger man. His is the life of a mortal: learning to love God, to love a woman, to support his children, to work hard when nobody is paying attention, to love his neighbor as himself.

Noble, quiet, and hardly earth-shaking.

The lines on his face and the gray in his hair trace the appearance of unexpected joys and pains, and he realizes that the story shaped him more than he shaped the story. His footprints landed differently than he thought they would, and he knows that he’s a character in Somebody else’s story, rather than its Author.

Success and significance appear to him differently now, and he is learning that the widest footprints aren’t always the deepest. He knows that 30 was only a beginning, even for those angry young men he once admired. Some of their stories ended badly, others ended well, and many others are still being written. Never judge a story while it’s still a work in progress.

He sees now that the world can be changed by a million ordinary men who choose to follow the steps of the One Hero for whom the earth truly shakes. He no longer hopes to leave his own massive footprints, but instead to trace the steps of His Savior, one after another, until he sees Him face to face.  As his story closes one day, he may just turn around and find a few others following him as he follows His Hero. But he figures he has a few years to go before then. 30 was just a beginning.

This is a new story, smaller than the one he planned, but somehow richer and more beautiful. He smiles at the mirror and steps into a new day.

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