“What do you want to do for your 50th birthday?” my wife asked me. “What, I’m turning 50?” was my reply. Even my mother and father were surprised when they realized I would be 50 this month! Oh no, I thought, that dreaded birthday when they decorate with black balloons, grey streamers, and RIP signs hanging on the walls. I have been to countless other “turning 50” birthday parties, but now my own! I am sure my friends will have fun surprising me with gifts like a walker, an oxygen tank, and a package of Depends. My coworkers will start to ask me when I plan to retire and can they have my stapler when I leave. How did I get here? Conventional wisdom would claim that I’ve reached the pinnacle of virility, the mountain top of the career ladder, and the last days of good health, it’s all downhill from here. They also say that you are only as old as you feel. The wisdom of age reveals this axiom to be untrue. See mentally I’m still in my thirties, but physically, my knees and back tell me otherwise. This same wisdom tells me that I’m not ready to start back down the mountain. This perch at 50 provides a great view of the life I’ve ventured below me, but it also reveals a lot of climbing yet to be accomplished, I’m not done and I’m anxious to keep going! It would be easy to conclude that my life is more than half over, and gone are the best years. I prefer to think that my first half century was all about getting me ready for my next half century. And so my second journey now begins.
John Denver sang “it turns me on to think of growing old” (Poems, Prayers, and Promises). There is a romantic notion of age; that the wisdom gained over decades will bring life into focus and provide a perfect vantage point to understanding the secrets of life and the answers to why we are here; Ah young grasshopper, listen to my wisdom, life is like swiss cheese, good to the taste, but full of holes. John Denver also sang “his sight has turned inside himself” (Rocky Mountain High). The passage of time has certainly made me more introspective and more aware of my personal motivations and goals. But more importantly, it has helped me to understand that human life is finite. We are each part of a continuous cycle of life that churns generation after generation. Our individual accomplishments, successes, and achievements are of little importance in the big picture of an ever changing universe. Walt Whitman wrote of the value of life “that you are here, that the powerful play goes on, and you might contribute a verse.” So will I leave a verse, a song, or go quietly into the night? The bible teaches us that our verse should not be about personal achievement, but about our contribution to better this world, reduce the suffering of others, and reveal to others the good news of salvation.
“When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13)
“Preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage, with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
So there you have it, the focus of our lives should not be on us, but on those around us. Allowing God’s love to flow through us so that it may be revealed to anyone that intersects our life. To interact with others “with great patience.” It’s that simple. This is the wisdom I have gained over 50 years. Now the key is putting it into practice, which is difficult indeed.
“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever” –Walt Disney