Today is an interesting date in history. It happens to be the 10th of October, 2010, or in numerical form 10.10.10. Perhaps for many young couples in Singapore, this would be an auspicious or special date to tie the knot. I can imagine restaurants and hotels being popular and fully booked, and many a wedding dinner happening tonight1.
In the Bible, the number ten, linked originally to reckoning by the fingers, is a favorite round figure in the O.T. e.g. the Ten Commandments, the ten plagues, the ten patriarchs before the flood, the tenth (tithe) as an offering to God, and ten as a measurement in relation to the ark, tabernacle, and temple (Gen 6:15; Ex 26-27; 1 Kgs 6-7). In the N.T., ten plays a lesser role. It is a round number e.g. Lk 19:13; Matt 25:1; Rev 2:10. Jesus displays His messiahship by ten miracles in Matthew 8 and 9. The genealogy in Matt 1 fits into a ten-period schema. The ten horns in Revelation represent a totality of power (as in Dan 7:20). In Rom 8:38-39, ten powers are unable to separate us from God, and in 1 Cor 6:9-10, ten vices exclude from the kingdom of God2.
A pastor friend of mine once describe one's human life in sections of ten years, or decades. The first 10 years, from 0 to 10, as formative years; the second decade (10-20) as discovering years; the third (20-30) as learning years, the fourth (30-40) as growing years; the fifth (40-50) as serving years; and the sixth and beyond (50 onwards) as mentoring years. Formative (0-10), as this is the period of physical dependence and formation, from birth to pre-teens. Discovering (10-20), as this is when adolescence begins, and besides dealing with hormones and puberty, youths learn to grapple with issues such as identity, peer influence, relationships, independence, personal discipleship, spiritual gifts, crises of faith, calling; and for males, national service. Learning (20-30), as this is where formal education, for many, will take place, and we not only take in the most in terms of education and book learning, but also learning from experiences e.g. starting out in the workforce, beginning a family, involving in ministry; for some, missions and theological training. Growing (30-40), as this is where we have been working and/or serving for some time now, and we begin to narrow down on where our strengths, giftings, passions lie, and perhaps the beginning of specialising or focusing. Robert Clinton in his book Spiritual Leaders describes this as congruence, where our person, passion and pursuits come together. Serving (40-50), as this is when we make our most significant contributions to society and the church, serving God to the fullest of our potential and capacity. Mentoring (50-60), as this is when we move towards investing and pouring our lives into the lives of others around us, in our families, our workplaces, our churches, our communities.
These do not have to be taken too rigidly or distinctly. For some, the phases might come earlier or later in life. Some may even overlap. The point is that God continues to work out His purposes throughout our lives, and “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6). Ten years is a significant period of time or life. Where are you at in your life today? What does God have for you at your current life stage? Where will you be in ten years' time? My prayer and hope is that, like the apostle Paul, we will fight the good fight, we will finish the race, we will keep the faith (2 Tim 4:7).
1Post-note: 830 couples tied the knot on 10.10.10, according to CNA.
2Adapted from Friedrich & Bromiley's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1995).