Last weekend I turned 30. For reasons which I can't quite put my finger on, that feels like a significant age. Perhaps it is just because my biological age is starting to catch up with my internal age - as one friend put it, I've always been old, but at least now I (am beginning to) have an excuse. Whatever the reason, it feels like completing three decades of life is a good time to stop and reflect a little, and also to look back and express some gratitude; a good time to raise an Ebenezer. So, for the record, here are some things for which I am thankful.
I am thankful that I grew up in a family where love and forgiveness were on display. Sometimes it might be tempting to think that it would be nice if less forgiveness were called for; but I would rather have imperfection and forgiveness. Human love and human forgiveness are a pale reflection of God's love and forgiveness, but a reflection nevertheless, and should be valued and loved for that. Most of all, I am thankful that I grew up in a family where the gospel of Jesus was not just true but real - not just professed, but lived. I learnt priorities there, and they have stood me in good stead.
I am thankful that God allowed me to wander from him for some years as a younger teenager. That might seem strange, but at some point I needed to see what life on the run from him was like. I wouldn't go back to it now.
I am enormously thankful that at the end of that period, in my later teens, God called me to himself. I am astonished at his persistence with me. I remember the breaking point, where I was had to surrender to him, and then the realisation that this brokenness was healing.
I am thankful that as a teenager I met the girl I would marry; I am grateful that she worked out that we should be married, because I knew it almost straight away.
I am thankful for my time at University, for the education I got there, for the friends I made, and also for the opportunities I had to get involved in ministry.
I am thankful for a hard year as a Relay worker, and for the tears that God pressed out of me in ministry. I am grateful for the mistakes that I made there, which taught me so much for the future. I am grateful for surviving and growing, and I am grateful for the friends who helped me.
I am thankful for my time working with Christian Unions in Oxford and High Wycombe. What a joy to be involved in the lives of God's people at such a critical time, and what a privilege to be with them doing his work. Sometimes I bump into people I know from the CUs I worked with, and it is always fantastic to see them going on.
I am thankful for the four Relay workers I supervised during those years. I feel something akin to parental pride - illegitimate, considering how small a part in played in their lives, but there nevertheless - when I think of all of them and the things they are doing and will go on to do.
I am thankful for God's provision since I left UCCF. We have never known in advance that we would have enough, but we have always been covered. God is dependable. We have had the money we needed, and now I have the job we need to enable us to stay in Oxford and serve the Lord Jesus here.
I am thankful for seven years of blessed marriage, and the arrival of Rufus six months ago. God has entrusted precious things to me; I pray he makes me faithful in caring for them.
I am thankful that the future is in God's hands, and that he will walk with me into it, standing always between me and danger, and leading me into my eternal home.
Here I raise my Ebenezer; here by thy great help I've come.