Yesterday I began the last year of my 40s. Or as my kids like to point out, “Dad, you’re nearly half a century old!”
An encouraging thought, indeed.
Yet as the pastor of a largely senior congregation, I know that I’m comparatively young. One lovely lady in our church has been a member for, I kid you not, 70 years!
So while I may be nearly half a century old, age is relative in some sense. To my kids, I’m old; to most people in my church, I’m young.
The most common way to describe someone in my season of life is to say I’m middle-aged. Halfway between old and young. And it feels strange, if I’m honest. Unless I’m with peers, I always feel slightly out of place but able to connect with people who are younger and older.
But the truth is, even though age is a mere number, getting older—or proceeding further into middle-age!—means change. Eating chicken wings or other spicy food, for instance, comes with a price to my digestive process I never had to pay, say, during my university years. I can dye my beard (As I have done. At my wife’s request, I might add!) or accept reality.
Getting older also means having your perspective change. You begin to see life differently. Things that were once important, you hardly give a second thought. Other things occupy more space in your mind. Or maybe it’s a question of limited space. If something new goes in, something else falls out.
Even as a Christian and a pastor, my perspective has changed. My journey of faith continues. I’m not who I once was. Not entirely. My relationship with God has grown. How I see church and ministry has shifted. Every once in awhile I have this sense of perhaps where God is (or seeks to be) at work transforming me. I think of the words of John the baptist: He must increase; I must decrease.
Though I have also found myself evaluating and pondering my life. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever really had a mid-life crisis; however, I have found myself asking: What have I accomplished? Have a made an actual difference? Where will God lead me in the days ahead? What reasons have I given my kids to seek therapy in the future? You know, the usual questions.
And obviously in many ways I’m glad when it comes to where I find myself at this stage of life. I’m grateful to be a father of three (nearly all) teenage kids. I’m grateful to be married to an incredibly beautiful and intelligent woman who deigns to be with me. In a lot of ways, despite my flaws, I’m much more comfortable with myself than I used to be.
Of course, in other ways I am less happy with myself. I should lose a lot of weight. There are loose ends in my life and I have unfinished business in various ways. I wonder: can I change this or that about myself? Or am I (and those around me!) stuck with me as I am?
Ah, 49! My life still stretches out before me, but now just as much (and probably much more so) behind me. I have no real desire to return to a younger version of myself. I’m more interested in growing older and hopefully, therefore, wiser. Whether the latter is happening, I’ll perhaps let others decide. Meanwhile, I want to lean into the present, and learn more and more to trust that God has my future well in hand, however many birthdays I have left.