“On the thirtieth year……..I was among the exiles by the River Chebar”- Ezekiel 1:1 NRSV
The 30th year of living, if one is fortunate to receive such a blessing in this life, seems to be something special in the Hebrew Bible. Katheryn Pfisterer Darr in her commentary on Ezekiel notes the significance of men who turned thirty from at least 3 clans from the house of Levi, that once they are 30 years old, they qualified to do work in the tabernacle (and then subsequently when it was built, the First Temple). Like Zechariah in the Gospel of Luke and other priests, Ezekiel was visited by the glory of YHWH, not in the temple, however, but outside the Temple, outside of Jerusalem, in a foreign land. Ezekiel’s calling is one of alienation and isolation; as a preacher of YHWH’s divine freedom and abandonment, Ezekiel and his followers were teaching against the traditional YHWHistic theologies of the Judeans and Israelites. Jerusalem was supposed to be Fort God, safe and indestructible. YHWH loved God’s people, so therefore only good things were supposed to happen to them, right? Wrong. Ezekiel’s words and signs led to a disconnected between himself and his exilic community.
In the same way, coming into being for a third decade, those who enter their 30’s begin to feel the disconnect between generations. Honestly, I have become sick and tired of hearing of the divide between “younger” and “older” Christians as if age was a determining factor in their identity. That just means we are giving into ageism and a blatant disrespect of our elders (most likely). Usually, I see people wanting to stay in their 20’s even at age 60 or so, and it shows up in their sense of fashion (I really am trying to be polite and politically correct here). My twenties for me felt like that song from “Once More With Feeling [the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer],” “Going Through the Motions,” at least the first 2-3 years. What was most important to me in those years was I was free to do what I want, eat when I wanted, sleep when I wanted, play video games any time I wanted. My freedom, my liberty. It was really an immature thought process I had back then. But now, after enduring seminary, and maturing in my relationship with God, I have a different purpose now. Like the priests and prophetesses of old, I feel a responsibility now, not just to myself, but for my community. I don’t know what the future holds, since only the Father knows, but I do know that with more years given and more blessing/sufferings to endure, come more responsibility on my end. Sure I have free will, but real freedom is in doing what it is right.
This reflection does come from a point of privilege. There are people in our communities, children in this country and around the world who do not have the luxury of a childhood—even if they are born into Hollywood lifestyles— who have to assume responsibilities that they are too young to have. This is why I always find it beneficial to be self-critical, that even to dwell on and on about what “my generation thinks” or “my generation likes” is a self-centered approach. That’s why I really don’t favor blogging that way; I do not speak or represent anyone outside my own subjectivity. This is why I believe that turning 30 is special, for the right reasons. Since we are caught up in the biblical story as our journey, 30 means going into exile from our youthful days of freedom, and making a pilgrimage into responsibility and vision.