Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Colonnade and shops in Bath, England

Friday, July 20, 2012

60 Years On

It seems like it was just yesterday. 


It was my birthday. My best friend, Sam, stopped by. He had a small gong with him, like one of those ancient Chinese gongs, only this one was abut 5" in diameter and sounded more like the lid to tin can. He sat across from me and started hitting it very slowly...20 times...while he played Elton John's "60 Years On" on my portable 8 track player (ask your parents, those of you who are wondering what this is). Sam was a year younger than me and wasn't about to let me forget it. This was his way of showing me that I was, at the ripe age of 20, getting old.


I don't remember much of the song other than it was a bit of a woeful dirge. The main line from the rather dark chorus was, "I've no wish to be living 60 years on." In our line of thinking, we took this to mean the singer had no wish to be living at 60 years old. It seemed so far away and so alien. I remember thinking, "If I live to be 60, I'm going to absolutely hate it, dreading every moment. Gray hair, wrinkles, a body that will betray me at every turn...and boredom!"


I was wrong. 


Yesterday, I turned 60. I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about my age until recently. Maybe it's because we are at the beach, which is prime for long strolls and introspective recollection. Maybe it's because I can feel my age more than ever before. I've been thinking about it. 


I can feel things slowing down a bit; aches where there were never aches, noises, pops and cracks when I get up out of a chair. 


I've seen how quickly times goes by and how much of it is wasted pursuing things that seem more valuable or important than God (Ecc 11:10).  


I don't really relish the aging process but neither do I believe I would trade the end result for being younger again. There's a richness that comes with age that is irreplaceable. The Bible tells us about this, "The glory of young men is their strength and the honor of old men is their gray hair." (Prov 17:6). Getting older is not boring. In reality, I've come to realize it is a refining experience. 


How does this aging process refine us? I can only tell you how it occurred for me, not that I'm refined as of yet but, how it made me realize I wasn't. 


Somewhere along the line, I got tired of naively thinking I knew all I needed to know about life and could expertly navigate its waters without setting my sails in the wrong direction. I was going to become the captain of my ship and master it, make it mine! In time and with experience, I found out I wasn't quite the expert sailor I imagined myself to be. 


Yet, there comes a certain freedom in admitting you don't know everything you need to know about life. As a matter of fact, the older you get, the more you realize exactly how little you know. Prov 11 tells us that pride comes, then dishonor, but with humility there is wisdom. Humility produces wisdom...


Hmmm....it's taken 60 years for me to get my arms around that one.


This humility, something I fought against for most of my life, is where the freedom is. The wisdom that comes with it (I have yet to master this), allows...no compels me to be honest and admit I have much to learn (Prov 22:4). Ironically enough, this makes life a brand new adventure to be savored. Each day brings some new revelation. Here's one of the primary revelations: The further I go, the more I realize that the things that were so precious to me when I was younger, were precious because they were about me, my happiness and my fulfillment. That can get  boring, not to mention frustrating.


When God, by His grace, begins to show us that our focus is to be upon Him, life begins to gain new interest and the anticipation of learning more and going deeper begins to build. You begin to look at things differently. You begin to see that the gifts He gives you are the important ones, not the ones you worked so hard to achieve. His gifts of grace take on new meaning and importance. 


I've come to an all new appreciation for the beautiful and godly wife He's blessed me with,  the wonderful kids we have and the loyal, loving friends we have made over the years. I see the amazing miracle He has worked in placing me in ministry, something I could never have accomplished on my own. I took much of this for granted for many years or, worse yet, tried to take credit for it myself. Now things look different. The tone of life has changed from a one or two note ditty into a rich, full and magnificent symphony written by a hand far more gifted than mine.


And I see eternity stretched out before me...waiting patiently for His timing, holding the promise of ever going deeper and closer to Him and His glory. 


When I was called into the ministry, at 50 years old, I was, at first, overwhelmed at the changes I was going through. Once things began to settle down, I became, just the slightest bit resentful, regretting it all did not happen earlier. As I pondered this, I had the unmistakable feeling in my heart that I should not be fretting over lost time, but should be ever thankful and grateful for the time ahead of me and the opportunities God would give me to honor Him in all I did. I humbly asked Him for 50 years in ministry. 


I have no idea if God will grant that request. I pray He does. But, those days of apprehension about growing old are long past. I relish the adventure, count my blessings daily and give all honor and praise to the One who changed everything in my life, making all things new and vibrant in all new ways. Go back? Never! God has made us to go forward and go deeper! Age is a beautiful, gracious gift He gives us and we should honor Him, showing our thanks by devoting every single moment, however many or few there may be to Him and His glory.


Sam didn't make it this far. I wish he was here to share all this with. He contracted a degenerative, neuro-muscular disease. I had the opportunity to share the gospel with him before he died. We laughed that day, and remembered "60 Years On" and that stupid gong. He passed away 8 years ago. Seems like yesterday.  

1 comment:

  1. Grow old along with Me...
    The best is yet to be...
    The last of life for which the first was made.
    Our times are in His hand
    Who saith "A whole I planned,
    Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!"

    As far as our callings in Christ go, I think it's really a waste of a life to have the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ living in you and wake up every morning without the intention of shaping the course of His story. He's in you, but He wants out. He's in you NOT as a lake, but as a river. His intention is to flow through you to transform the nature of the geography around you. It's your calling.

    His Kingdom is within you. This means that you have this unique privilege of releasing a reality to redefine the nature of the world that you want to live in. You and everyone who has named His name are carriers of another world. That world is released in word and action. By nature you are to be a transforming person. In whatever way the Lord touches you, you are not just to be a testimony of that work, you actually become by nature that which He has done in you. I don't know how else to put it. The light of God touches you... You become light. (Isaiah 60:1 - "Arise and shine for your light has come... It DOES NOT say reflect.) It's an amazing thing. Jesus is the light of the world... Before He left, in John 20:21, He passed the baton to you and me... You're the light of the world. It's really amazing. The Reconciler reconciles you, and you become a reconciler. Not just one with a ministry of reconciliation. It's not just now having an ability to do something... You by nature become that very thing. The most amazing ongoing testimony is the fact that the way the Grace of God touched you changed your capacity to manifest Him. The delivered become deliverers. [And please don't think I'm saying we replace Him, as some unbelieving believers have said to me. He is the Son. But we are His body...which He has chosen to operate through today.]

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