older and wiser

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 8.35.47 PMYou in your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of cloud to lead them in the way did not depart from them by day, nor the pillar of fire by night to light for them the way by which they should go. Nehemiah 9:19

It’s my birthday today. I’m sixty years old. The big 6-O!

There was a winter storm last night, so we didn’t go out for dinner as we planned. I broiled some shrimp and scallops and was content to spend a quiet evening at home. I find myself content with silence more and more.

A colleague and his wife, my co-assistant pastor and my pastor of over 25 years and his wife joined Katie and me for lunch at the university. And they asked me what I’ve learned.

I’ve learned, and am learning, how to rest in the mercies of God. I’ve thought about grace a lot over the last two decades. I’ve thought quite a bit about the glory of God in the last ten years.

The relationship between the grace of God and the glory of God has occupied most of my theological reflection. We are dependent on His grace and He gets the glory. His grace alone sustains us, saves us, changes us.

But one thing I’m beginning to understand better is the mercy of God.

You see His mercies better looking back than looking forward. Any thoughtful reflection leads to the recognition of His sovereign care. His direction, His provision, His protection— we are humbled that He would use us at all, grateful that He would chose us as an object of His love.

At 60 you can rest and think about that. Perhaps you can even start to understand it.

I sometimes joke that by the end we are all Calvinist. But I don’t really mean this in any theological sense, only in the sense that the older we get the more clearly we see His hand, even in our greatest sorrows or failures.

I’ve had my share of losses. I was estranged from my daughter, and in some ways still am—at least in matter of the faith. I have a son whose choices sometimes keep me up at night. I have had reverses in my career and health. No reason or no way to list them all here.

But blessings too, too many to count: faithful friends, adorable grandchildren, a healthy church, a godly wife.

So we can have a cup of tea in the morning, resting completely in the mercies of God. So many things I can’t change, so many things I can’t do over, and yet He is Himself a quiet habitation, a sure foundation, a shelter in any storm.

In Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening today he writes about the children of Israel and their wanderings in Exodus:

They were never long in one place. Even wells and palm trees could not detain them. Yet they had an abiding home in their God, his pillar was their rooftree and its flame by night their household fire.

And later:

Let prospects be blighted, let hopes be blasted, let joy be withered, let mildew destroy everything; I have lost nothing of what I have in God, my strong habitation whereunto I continually resort.

Katie and I both wept. That’s it, really. In sixty years we are finally learning to rest in His mercy.

An abiding home is our God.

And it’s not the one on Cochran Rd.

10 thoughts on “older and wiser”

  1. Happy birthday, Wally! I love that this came through as I was writing about celebrating my dad’s and my birthdays this weekend (mine was last month though.) I’ve been thinking a lot about redemption and I think your thoughts on mercy go hand in hand. I look back at my 32 years and see all of the ways that God has shown mercy on me and how He has redeemed my worst plans for His own glory. I’m so thankful that He doesn’t forsake us in the wilderness. I hope your birthday week is wonderful.

  2. Happy Birthday!!! Thanks for sharing your reflections! I have much to learn about resting in the mercies of God. Thankful for you on your birthday!

  3. I, too, am content with silence more and more. And grace. It’s almost too big to comprehend. I am thankful for it…and for you (and Katie).

  4. “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
    Because His compassions fail not.
    They are new every morning;
    Great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23 (NKJV)

    Happy Birthday! Peace and quiet is such a gift–one I think, that we don’t really begin to appreciate until the years add up a bit. Blessings to you on this milestone birthday, May you have many more.


  5. Ah, 60. You will find this decade much different from the one preceding it. More challenging. More thoughtful. I am aware of heaven more than I used to be. I find I want to read more than I want to write. Time passes too quickly…even the odious month of February. Am I now a Calvinist? Hmmmmmmm….have to think on that one. But at 60-something, I have more time to think now. BTW: Don’t forget to PLAY!

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