If you would have told me when I was a youngster, say about seven or eight, that I would live to be at least sixty years old, I would have been happy. When I was that age, sixty seemed ancient. I remember thinking that when a man turned sixty, he retired, lived a couple of more years, and then died. So, if I could just make it to sixty that was about all one could expect.
Times have changed. Sixty is not that old any longer as people are living to be much older. It is hard to say the exact number, but estimates put the number of one-hundred-year-old people in the United States as close to 100,000. People no longer expect to retire at sixty or even sixty-two. It is not unusual for folks to plan on retirement at age seventy or later. As they say, sixty is the new fifty, or perhaps even the new forty.
However, the biggest thing to happen to change my thinking is that I turn sixty tomorrow morning. The best way to change your perspective is to change your location. It still doesn’t sound good, to say that I’m sixty years old, but I don’t feel much different. Just last night as we were watching television, out of the clear blue, Sharon said, “You don’t look like a sixty year old man!”
When I asked for clarification, she finally admitted that my appearance was more like fifty-five or fifty-six. I’ll take it.
One of the great things about Facebook is that it has allowed me to get back in touch with some friends of my youth. It has been great to reminisce and share photographs. It is also amazing to see how much we have changed and how many different directions our lives have travelled.
There are some things about me that have not really changed over the years. I still like to smile and love to laugh. I am somewhat adventurous, though probably not as much as when young, but I am not afraid to try something new. I still don’t mind making mistakes or going off in a weird direction. My eyes are still bright blue and my hair is thick, although with much less color. I love the opportunity to solve a problem, a quality developed from a childhood spent in a wheelchair.
However, there are also some things about me that have changed with the passing of time. I am not nearly as smart as I used to be. When I was younger I knew all the answers about theology, politics, and life. Now I only know the questions and have learned that very few of my answers had any value.
I have also learned that life is hard. Moments of pain, sorrow, grief, indecision, fear, apprehension, and worry can be unbearable at times. There have been times when the only thing to do was cry. Anyone, especially a preacher, who tells you that God wants you to be happy and healthy, is full of crap (excuse my language but I could not think of a more appropriate term). God wants me to struggle because that seems to be the only way I will learn to trust Him.
I have also learned that people are more important than principles. I think that is why I have very little interest in politics any longer. Politics is all about policies and principles with very little interest in people. How can you care about people and then say the horrible things that politicians say about one another and about all who disagree with them. It frightens me that this same attitude of “I’m right and you’re wrong” has crept into the church.
In spite of all the physical, emotional, political, theological, and spiritual struggles of my life, I can honestly testify that I have truly enjoyed every one of my years. I guess my thinking has not really changed – I am still happy with having reached sixty years of age. I hope there is more, and anticipate there will be, but if not, this has been ok. Life has been good – all sixty years of it.