Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On turning 50

I like that Veteran's Day is on Armistice Day and that Armistice Day is on the feast of St Martin of Tours and that all 3 happen on my birthday. Today I turn 50. While I don't feel old, I certainly recognize that I am not a young man.

Growing up I had a fuzzy belief that some indescribable something happened when you reached certain ages, especially at 18 and 21. I am not sure exactly what I thought would occur when I reached those milestones along the road of life. Then I turned 18, then 21, and nothing happened. While I may have thought about turning 30 in those days, I am quite certain I never ruminated on turning 50.

In the words of the Social Distortion song "Ball & Chain"- "But wherever I have gone/I was sure to find myself there/You can run all your life/But not go anywhere." Such thoughts also remind me of a funny anecdote that happened on Easter when I was young, when all of the children in our family received new clothes. One of my younger sisters, after putting on all her new clothes, came out and said something like, "I have on new socks, new shoes, new underwear, and a new dress." My other younger sister replied, "Same old face." My point? No matter how old I grow I am still me. Unlike when I was younger and disappointed in the reality of still being myself each year, these days I take great comfort in still being me. In fact, it makes me grateful. Who else would I be, or even want to be?

St Martin of Tours and the beggar

I don't mind sharing that most of this year I have been preparing for turning 50, readying myself for a new decade of life, looking forward with eagerness to what lies before me in the years and decades ahead. I am fully aware that there is a sense in which how we measure time is abstract and can even be seen as perhaps a bit arbitrary.

By the grace of God, over the past year I've been able to change some habits that harmed me and contributed to certain patterns of unhealthy behavior. Some of those patterns persist, but the changes in some of my habits make it much easier to engage in the agon, the struggle.

As an introvert, I find many aspects of life exhausting. It is good not to give in to exhaustion or be deterred from engaging life in ways I know will take a lot out of me. In the words of English poet Edward Thomas, which words are carved on memorial stone that lays on the hill he climbed when leaving his wife, home, and hearth to fight in the Great War, from whence he never returned: And, I rose up, and knew that I was tired, and continued my journey. Permit me one more relevant quote, this one from Fyodor Dostoevsky (who was also born on 11 November) taken from his novel Demons: "All my life I did not want it to be only words. This is why I lived, because I kept not wanting it. And now, too, every day I want it not to be words." Since I am on the subject of words, I think it bears noting that while I technically started this blog when I was 39, I began blogging in earnest almost a year later, when I was 40. It will be interesting to see where this endeavor continues to go.

I am grateful not only for a new year but a new decade of life. God is good. I pray that I may, by God's grace, continue to follow Jesus along the road of life, the only road that leads to life eternal, to the life that is truly life.

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