I celebrated a birthday this week. Not all birthdays are particularly noteworthy. But those ending in the numbers five or zero tend to be big deals. The other day, I had one of those big deal birthdays beginning with a SIX and ending in a ZERO!
I know the clichés and agree with them. One that comes to mind is “Growing older beats the alternative.” Agreed! From that standpoint, my philosophy about birthdays is simply, “Keep ‘em coming!” But, that does not change the fact that part of me resists aging. I just don’t know how the years have passed so quickly, nor why they tend to accelerate. I have not yet grown comfortable with clerks at Wendy’s taking one look at me and then, without asking, giving me a senior discount. I have not yet grown comfortable with random aches and pains and how I have become a close friend with Ibuprofen. I have not yet grown comfortable with the physician’s phrase, “Well, as you age…” I have not yet grown comfortable with hearing young people on TV refer to “the olden days” and then realizing they are talking about the years when I was in high school. “Mature” I can handle. “Experienced” is good. Even “seasoned” has a nice ring to it.
Sixty years old. I don’t feel older. I can see a fleeting bit of grey on my temples. But, when I look at photographs of “then and now,” I really see it. I am getting older!! And so, I ask myself: Does that mean I’m getting wiser? Have I learned any lessons along the way that help me make more sense of life here and now?
Am I getting more spiritual? As the years pass, do I discern that which is transient from that which is eternal? When I was a kid, I wanted things and thrills, and, of course, I wanted it right now. Now that I’m older, do I have a longer sense of vision that focuses on things that are lasting and eternal?
Am I getting a better sense of priorities? Time has brought a wonderful understanding that everyone I meet is important and has upon them the fingerprint of God. At the same time, as the years pass, do I remember that there are a handful of people who give me life? Am I careful not to neglect the few who feed my soul, family and friends who allow me to be myself, warts and all, and who love me anyway? As I age, I have learned that I cannot do all things, but there are certain things God has gifted (and thus Called) me to do. Am I learning to prioritize?
Am I willing to claim joy? Whereas it is imperative to be serious in a world with such complex and demanding issues, it is unfaithful to sacrifice joy. Unfaithful? Yes, I think so – especially since Jesus said: “I have come that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15: 11). Have I learned to set aside some things that feed my soul and make me smile?
Have I learned to love? Ultimately, that’s why we are here. It is really that simple. Again to quote Jesus: “This is my commandment, that you love one another” (John 15: 12). It is why we were created. I hope to be successful, happy, meaningful, noticed…but, in order to find life that is authentic, the one thing I have to be is loving. Day by day, am I willing to find ways to put love into practice for people? Anything less than that, I’ve missed the point of being alive.
There’s an old phrase we love to throw around: “You’re not getting older; you’re getting better.” Well, I am getting older. But, at the same time, I hope I am also getting better at figuring out why I’m here and at living into that. I can’t get the previous years back. If I could, there would be much I would do differently. Today, however, I can follow new paths and make new commitments. And if I do that every new “today,” then I will create a whole host of meaningful tomorrows…and maybe, just maybe, getting older will actually mean getting better, too!!
–Susan C. Lindblade