Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Old Enough

I turn 55 this year. The old double-nickel...
I don't feel old. Well, sometimes I do.

I can do pretty much everything I always did - it just takes me longer to recuperate. I don't bounce back as quickly after working all night. Bumps and bruises and aches and pains often take longer to heal. My balance and reflexes are less reliable, too. Consequently, I'm a little more cautious than I used to be (Well, sometimes I am) - knowing a bad decision may cost me dearly.

My metabolism has slowed down. When I was younger, I burned calories so fast it was pretty much impossible for me to gain weight. I took pride in my ability to consume thousands of calories with impunity. It was easy to tend towards gluttony, since there was no apparent consequence. 
I weighed around 130 when I got married, and maybe 140 or so 15 years later. But about the time 
I turned 40 years of age, that train came to a screeching halt.

Suddenly I started putting on the pounds. My job is fairly sedentary, a lot of sitting in front of computer screens. My high octane metabolism was no longer in top gear. And it took me a few years to come to terms with the change. (Denial isn't just a river in Egypt.) Finally, I figured out that I could no longer eat the way I did when I was 20 or 30. My body just doesn't need the same amount of fuel to function. And I'm happy if I weigh less than 200 pounds, but it takes a lot of work to stay there.

This turn of events has caused me to recognize and begin to change some of my bad habits, such as a tendency to lust for food. I don't need that second helping, but it tastes so good! I know I need to exercise more, but I don't really want to, because it's hard and boring and so not fun. Like the apostle Paul, I find that I have to bring my body into subjection every day. (1 Corinthians 9:27)

For a good part of my life, I thought I'd never be old enough. I wanted to be taken seriously, to garner respect, to be able to operate freely in God-given gifts. Somehow I thought being older would magically fix my insecurities and lack of self-confidence. Suddenly, I was there - older, but still not old enough. I had to find my security in Christ alone, not in myself or what I could do. 

I'm constantly learning that lesson. When I trust in my own strength and abilities, it's not too long before I fall short. When I tap into the power of God resident within me, I make better choices and have much more success. The problem is, I WANT to trust in myself. "I can do this, I can handle this one, God." Sadly, I usually cannot. I wish to be independent, but every success in life comes from being connected to Christ, drawing life from Him. That's why He said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)

Older, not old enough. My friends are becoming grandparents and dealing with their own aging parents. My daughters are getting married and planning their families. Kids I taught in children's church now have their own children. The music of my childhood is being pushed off the oldies stations by stuff that's too new for me to remember.* I attend too many funerals. I haven't had hair in my eyes for at least a decade, probably longer. The majority of my co-workers are young enough to be my children. Their cultural references usually mystify me. And when I mention something from my youth, they have no idea what the geezer is talking about.**

Success in life has a lot to do with attitude. I'm determined to make the most of my time on earth. I'm here to serve Jesus Christ, to live my life as a testament to His glory. I used to have youthful zeal and boundless energy. Those items are now in short supply, but at least they've been replaced by wisdom and experience. If only I'd known then what I've learned through the years, I'd have made much wiser decisions and be a whole lot better off. But that isn't the way it works. Now, I hope that when I share with young people, they catch a little of what I'm trying to say. Maybe I can save them some grief if they will learn from my mistakes.

When I was young, I was a know-it-all, not very coachable. As I've aged, I keep learning how much I really don't know. And some of my dearly held ideas have proven to be wrong. My theology has changed, sometimes dramatically.*** And I'm constantly learning, updating, reformulating, just trying to understand God, this great big world He created, and my place in it. Sometimes I'm still a know-it-all. But I'm repenting of that, and seeking to develop humility. And I'm trying to shut up and listen: "Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent." (Proverbs 17:28)

So will I ever be old enough? Probably not. With God's help, I hope to continue growing in wisdom and knowledge and fear of the Lord. I pray I can live such a life that people see Christ in me. And when I pass on from this mortal existence, I intend to have no regrets and look forward to hearing those cherished words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." (Matthew 25:21)

*I remember riding a city bus in Lincoln, Nebraska in the late '70s. There were some teenage girls nearby, and I overheard their conversation. I had my first taste of geezerhood when one of them asked breathlessly, "Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?"

**Mary Ann. Definitely Mary Ann.

***I'll share an example of my radically changed theology in my next post.

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