If you pay attention to sports, you will sometimes hear a commentator refer to an athlete being “in his prime.” Interestingly, the “prime” age may vary depending upon the sport. For most sports the prime falls in the late twenties and early thirties, after gaining sufficient experience but before the body has worn down too much. However, in many Olympic sports, such as gymnastics, swimming, and track and field, the prime occurs much earlier in life when flexibility, energy, and metabolism are at their peak. However, if you leave the world of sports and instead consider music, a performer’s prime usually falls much later, showing that a certain maturity and experienced musicality have benefits above and beyond simple technique. Advancements in technology and medicine have raised the bar in terms of the prime of life for many people, extending their ability to work and earn far beyond previous generations so that the prime of life might even be middle age! Regardless, Job offers a perspective about the prime of life that completely changes how we typically consider it.
As Job continued his soliloquy following the criticism of his friends, he opined, “Oh, that I were as in months past, As in the days when God watched over me; When His lamp shone upon my head, And when by His light I walked through darkness; Just as I was in the days of my prime, When the friendly counsel of God was over my tent” (Job 29:2-4). When we consider Job’s circumstances—in sorrow over the loss of all his children, in poverty due to the destruction of all his property, and in pain due to the deterioration of his health—his reflection seems rather understated. However, the theme that accompanied his complaint is significant. While Job certainly considered his change in circumstances and wished for happier days, he placed this personal history in the context of his relationship with God. God watched over him, blessed him, protected him, and counseled him. For Job, life was best when God was most active in his life. Even though these words came when Job did not appreciate how God was still active in his life—perhaps with more direct attention than ever before!—they offer an important perspective for us.
We tend to think of our prime in terms of our physical well being—just like Job. But when, we might ask, is our spiritual prime? We are at our best—our prime—when we are closest to God (Jas. 4:8), when He is active in our lives because we have welcomed Him into our lives (Gal. 2:20), and when we are aware of all that He has done and is doing for us (1 Thess. 5:17-18). And the most beautiful thing about your spiritual prime is that there is no age limit. We can continue to push the boundaries of what it means to be in our prime spiritually until the day we die. We may be limited from some activity due to health or circumstances, but the growth of the soul does not know these boundaries. I may be middle-aged as I write this, but my dearest hope is that I have yet to reach my prime. It is a hope that few other activities can offer, and yet it is a hope more grounded in reality than any other thing in life.