On turning fifty

Tomorrow is the day I turn fifty.

If I were a business, I would put it on my sign: A Half Century of Insightful Commentary.

I did put it on my blog, which at some level is the presumption of having something insightful to say. But my wife Katie and my son Michael said it was so depressing they quit reading it. It started about a month ago, when I set out to spend a month talking about wellness, wealth and worship, themes that are on my mind these days.

OK, so I was whining. But I don’t age as gracefully, or as beautifully, as Katie does. I admit, however, turning fifty doesn’t seem as traumatic as turning 40 for some reason. I’d already lost my hair, by then, of course. But turning 40 was special nonetheless: I spent that day walking the streets of Old Jerusalem with my Dad.

The last ten years have brought more trials than triumphs, it seems. But the truth is that life is good and God is good. I’ve sensed His grace and rested in His sovereignty, and that is lesson enough for any decade. And frankly, the grief I’ve experienced over the loss of relationships in the past year makes another birthday seem uneventful and unimportant.

Well, not uneventfully, actually. My colleagues at the university did take me to lunch today, and I got the obligatory Preparation-H and other good natured reminders of my maturity. Celebrating milestones has always been important to me, and there is still breakfast with the boys at Cracker Barrel, and dinner out with Katie this Saturday, and who knows what other moments of mystery or mirth.

The misery? It’s largely an affectation. I’m truly blessed. But there is a transformation going on in my life, and its one about which I want to be thoughtful. MIght I say pensive? When Dad died last fall, my first question was “Who am I going to call?” But the real question is “Who is going to call me?” Part of God’s purpose in my life is to be to others what he was to me.

Being an elder in this sense has nothing to do with getting a discount card and a membership in the AARP. It is about being a steward of my journey and its joys, and using half a century of experience in the service of others. It’s the beginning of a new stage in my life. The very beginning, I think. I have much to learn about the role of an elder in this sense, sitting in the gate listening to the disputes of the young. Of course Lot sat in the gate, and got laughed out of town.

It makes me think again of Psalm 112, which I spent much of the last decade trying to understand and apply. This is what it says:

Blessed is the man who fears the LORD ,
who finds great delight in his commands.
His children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.

Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man. [3]
Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice.
Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.

He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD .
His heart is secure, he will have no fear;
in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.
He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor,
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn will be lifted high in honor.

I used it as a text at two graduations and two funerals. I pray it constantly for my sons, and try to model it. But it’s filled with lessons I haven’t mastered yet. Mastery will probably take at least another decade, and in the meantime maybe I should change my sign:

Half a Century of Getting Ready to Give Insightful Commentary.

For the next ten years at least, this blog is open for business. You’ll find it right here, beside the gate.

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