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60

Jan 08 2022

A few weeks ago, I turned 60, but in my head I turned 60 on my 59th birthday.  This milestone age has been very much on my mind since I saw it heading my way a year ago.  It doesn't bother me that I turned 60, but it shocks me with how young I was when it happened. Last week I was an eight year old catching toads with my neighbor chums, and yesterday I was teaching my 29 year old how to ride a bike.  Sixty years should have passed a lot slower than they have.

This new decade birthdy has caused me to be more introspective than the others.  At 30, Sue and I were expecting our first child, at 40 our third.  The winter I turned 50 I was coaching our second daughter's high school basketball team, which was one of the great 'dad moments' of my life.  Those birthdays came and went without a lot of contemplation.  As my dad used to say, "I was busy raising a family."  But for a couple years now Sue and I are experiencing the empty nest, so there's been more time to see that big six-zero getting closer every day, and, since December 22nd, to watch it in the rear view mirror. As I said, turning 60 doesn't scare me, but it has, more than any birthday past, caused me to reflect about some big stuff.

AGING:  For a while now, I've been aware of the effects of aging on my body.  During my last decade, I've developed pain in my right knee, started wearing glasses all the time, and noticed a definite decline in energy.  This might  be the most frustrating part of getting older.  I have not skied cross country, something I've enjoyed since I was 16, for a few winters now.  The last time I went my knee experienced so much pain for so man y days, I've not gone again.  I could, and probably will, but it will never be the same as it was, and that has to be okay.  

Since juggling is also a physical endeavor, I've noticed the effect of aging on this as well.  Juggling machetes on a double balance board is a thing of the past.  Juggling six or even five balls might not be entirely behind me, but I certainly need to make sure I'm well warmed up and I'm having a 'good' day before I'd them in a show. For several years now,  I have had to adjust my thinking to what I already knew: It's not about me, and it's not about being the best.  God has given me a niche to use this oddball way of presenting the Gospel, and He continues to do so.  I'm learning- better late than never- to be content with that.

FAMILY:  I have the most amazing and supportive wife around.  Marriage is one thing that is better now than it was when I was younger.  We've always been happy, but we know each other so well now that the empty nest is a blessing rather than the disappointment it can be for so many.  Sitting side by side on the couch and watching baseball can be just as beautifully sweet as our more passionate evenings we had together as newlyweds.  And the fact that we get to work together in the same school is an awesome bonus.

We've raised three daughters together, and they're all doing well as 20-sometihng adults.  I realized this December that, although Christmas with little kids at home was magical, having the girls (plus one son-in-law) home this year as adults was probably even better.  We laughed, ate, drank, and talked late into the nights; Well, at least late for this 60 year old.

GOD:  It's been 37 years or so since God met me and extended His grace through God the son, Jesus.  Nothing has ever been more real to me as that spiritual encournter, and there have been several more of these profound, indefinable --but realler -than -reality moments over the years.  But following Jesus is not normally lived on the spiritual mountaintop; it is usually lived out in the mundane moments of work, home, and recreation.

When my spiritual journey began, I made the assumption that, the closer I got to Jesus, the more sure I would be of every theological position.  So many older Christians encouraged this mindset, with well rehearsed doctrines of morality, eschatology and politics.  But, as a 60 year old believer, I'm realizing that the more I know Jesus, the less I am sure of so many of the  assumptions I've heard and accepted.  As a dear friend told me years ago, "God works in mysterious ways." Trite, but profound in the moment I needed to hear it.  So, while I am confident of God's goodness, grace, forgiveness, holiness, and His activity in my life, I have absolutely no idea what the correct teachings are on the end times or speaking in tongues, for example.  In fact, I don't really care. 

 And as for a Christian's role in politics, I'm beginninig to think that Larry Norman had the right idea when he wrote,

"Politicians all make speeches, and the newsmen all take notes,

They exaggerate the issues as they shove 'em down our throats

Is it really up to them whether this country sinks or floats.

Well, I wonder who would lead us if none of us would vote."

Yes, Christians need to have a voice in government, I suppose, but it is not our primary calling. Honoring and following God is.  And both Pat Robertson and the religious right and Al Sharpton and the religious left have failed miserably at this.  I want to focus my energy on what matters most, and it's not the elephant or the donkey.  It is the Lamb of God.

THE FUTURE:  In ten years, when I turn 70, I suppose I'll have more aches and pains to write about, and some additional juggling tricks I'll have lost.  Those things are inevirable.  But where will I BE?  For 33 years, Sue and I have been living in our starter home. We've raised three kids to adulthood in our starter home, welcomed multiple others who needed a place to live for periods of time in our starter home, and now, with the nest empty, our starter home is just the right size for the two of us.  I imagine we'll be right here in Bridgton, Maine.  On the other hand, we have spoken casually about retiring to Texas; we have one married daughter living there already, and another daughter currently falling hard for a Texas boy even as I write this.  But the truth is, knowing how God works, it's just as likely we'll end up doing missionary work on the first manned colony on Mars as anything else.  And any of these outcomes is okay. 

DYING:  To be honest, I've given more than my share of attention to this topic since I was a teen.  My mother died when I was 14, and it's just a topic that I've thought about ever since.  But as I approached 60, my thoughts on this topic have shifted from fantasizing about my funeral plans to wondering what death and dying will actually be like. I picture it like some of our trips to foreign countries. I was always moreafraid of the trip itself than what I would experience upon arrival.   I am confident that Jesus has done what is needed for me to live in heaven for eternity. Still what will it be like?  When we went to Ecuador the frst time, for example, had I read a lot about it and had a picture of what to expect in my mind.  When we arrived, though,  I saw that, while all that I had learned was true, it was so much more than than the knowledge I had acquired before I had arrived.  I didn't  have any idea how amazing the destination 

Approaching and turning 60 wasn't scary, nor was it depressing, but it has been a time of reflection and hope for what lies ahead.

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