God likes to do things in 40s. Have you noticed? Israel wondered for 40 years. Jesus was tempted for 40 days. I'm not sure what the whole idea behind 40 really is, but I'm gaining a new appreciation for what it really means.
Today is May 26. Forty days from now will be July 5. That feels like forever away; it's more, even, than an entire month away. Forty days before now was April 15. That, too, feels like forever away. But it also feels incredibly close.
I know. Because this year on April 15, I was doing something.
See, 40 days is interesting precisely because of this. It is a sufficiently long enough time that it can feel like a full season. It's more than the days you could count if you were counting. It's more than a whole month. It's not this nice, neat unit of time that can be checked off a calendar. It's kind of...even though it ends in 0...an odd number. Just enough time to throw you off and to become something.
It's also just enough time, I think, for life to become life. For whatever's happening to stop being novel and start being normal. Whatever you're facing, when you do it for forty days, you find inevitably that it's just become natural. It's what you expect. It's become life as you know it.
I wonder if Jesus felt that way in the wilderness. If He just got to the point where He woke up in the mornings after a fitful night of sleep and knew that Satan was coming at Him again. If He didn't even blink any more but almost expected it.
For better or for worse, 40 days is enough time for life to feel normal.
But not entirely.
Because even though it becomes routine, it still sort of feels a little bit new. It still takes a little bit of thinking, of effort, to remember what you're doing. Like any new habit, it takes consciousness and intentionality to make it work. Forty days is enough time for things to become more natural, but it's not enough time for things to feel fully so. You still have to work at it, at least a little bit.
You still have to make the conscious choice about how you want to do this thing.
So I guess I would say 40 days is weird because it's enough time for life to feel like life again, but not so much time that you can stop being intentional about how you're living it (if, in fact, you're trying to live it a certain way). In that sense, it is both an eternity and a blink. It's forever...and it's brand new.
And you learn so much in 40 days about who you are. About who God is.
Now, I'm only 30 years old, so I really have no firm understanding of 40 years, but I would imagine it's the same - long enough to be forever, short enough to still be new. I think that's what we see in the Exodus story. There, 40 years is an entire generation and yet, it's also when God does His new thing. It's just long enough to be meaningful, just short enough to be inspirational.
All this because yesterday, I started a tweet with "Forty days later..." and couldn't help but think about what 40 days really means.
Both everything and just enough.