My son has been on parole for nearly three years. His parole will end 40 days from today! 40 days. Experts will tell you that forty days are all you need to change the course of your life. If you can stick with a new behavior forty days then it will become a habit – a permanent piece of the whole of you. Want to give up smoking? Give it up for 40 days and it will no longer be a habit. If you want to add exercise into your life, it will ONLY take 40 days to make it as routine as breathing. A Google search of “40 Days” opens page after page after page of hits. You can find books, calendars, and personal betterment courses – a veritable buffet of 40-day challenges. Ancient writings and artifacts (including certain monuments) make it clear that a cycle of 40 days was once carefully time tracked. There are extensive math equations that prove how effectively the solar year can be perfectly broken down into 40-day increments. There are even early writings that are attributed to a Jewish philosopher named Philo Judaeous (c. 25 BC - 45 AD) who wrote about the significance of the 40-day cycle, and in fact, made reference to the Biblical book of Genesis. The Bible, you see, is filled with examples of 40-day stints replete with testing and conquering.
In the book of Genesis we read about Noah, his big boat, and the flood that washed the earth. The rains came for forty days and forty nights. When the boat finally came to rest on the top of the mountains of Ararat it was forty days before Noah opened the window. According to the customs of Biblical times, it took 40 days for a body to be embalmed. Moses spent 40 days and nights on the mountain before descending with the tablet on which was written the Ten Commandments. The Lord then told Moses to have some men spend 40 days exploring the land of Canaan and to report back with their findings. The men lied about what they saw and found and so God punished the Israelites by allowing them to wander in the desert for 40 years – one year for each of the days they had been told to explore the land of Canaan. The Old Testament plays out story after story of 40-day encounters, starring heroes like David and Elijah. Even Jesus spent forty days in the desert being tempted by Satan. He did better than the Israelites – no grumbling or complaining. He set the bar for how to successfully deal with our challenges. We give up far more quickly and under far less stress. I confess…I’ve wimped out on a few challenges and I REALLY hate being in the proverbial desert! But in the Bible, as in life today, if we can stick it out for 40 days, there is a rainbow on the other side of the storm. There is milk and honey after the desert.
Okay…I said all that to say this…40 days! Can I get an “Amen!”? My son will be free from “the system” for the first time – well – ever! He was 18 when he became a pretty hard-core drug user and was imprisoned by his addiction. Then he went to jail, then prison, then parole. The next forty days will (for me) be a time of reflecting on where we as a family have been, and rejoicing with my son for where we are today. I am amazed at who my son is and I am blessed to have the privilege of watching him become a man. I’ve encouraged my son to spend some time over the next forty days reflecting – reflecting on where he’s been, who he is today, and where he hopes the road of life will take him next. I plan to take that same advice. I will reflect not only on where I’ve been, but where I NEVER want to return!
Forty days! Amen!