Twenty-something years ago I started writing a series of short essays/devotionals which were to be compiled into a book titled, “The Year to the Left of Forty.”
They’re still in my desk file drawer with a couple of additions and a scratched-in retitle — yes, you guessed it — “The Year to the Left of Fifty.”
And so here we are. Tomorrow I will have lost my chance at another snappy title unless I get with it fast.
Sixty. The Big 6-0.
It’s okay. Right?
Well maybe . . .
I was a really good sport about 40 and even 50. Could be that I was so frantic with kids in the house and a job and a ministry husband that there just wasn’t time to dwell on it. But seriously. Sixty. Why does that one sound like somebody else’s age? Certainly not moi.
In my immediate family there’s not a whole lot of longevity to hang my proverbial hat on so maybe that’s why the reluctance . . . earthly days are quite possibly numbered. Or maybe it’s because my age is now finally going to match my gray hair that’s been poking through since my twenties and that’s disturbing at a cellular level. Or, and this is the most likely, it is a scientifically proven and documentable chronological reminder that according to some factions out there in the world, my usefulness is draining away and the days of having a voice are past. While it may not be quite to the “relic” stage, it’s definitely on the approach.
Do you believe that? Are you drinking what’s being poured into your glass and labeled “Truth?” Are you (if you’re my age) starting to question whether your gas tank can continue to get you down the road? That your song is too weak to carry the tune of Good News to anyone’s heart?
I don’t believe a word of it either. I was just trying to get a rise out of you. Thanks for humoring.
In my way of thinking I’ve earned each and every gray hair, I still have beaucoup to offer, and to top it off, it matters very little what others’ opinions are any more. Sixty is freeing. Sixty is going to be okay. I can carry a tune even better than a couple decades ago, and if that book ever does get compiled it’s gonna have to be The Year to the Left of Seventy because I’m too busy living to write it at the moment.
“People are funny.” It’s a phrase used around here to cover a lot of ground. We say it when we don’t know what to say. It’s harmless but astute. It’s kind of noncommittal but heavy. Funny but strange. Generalized in its observation but accurate to the tiniest of degrees. The perfect comment when no other comment is appropriate.
It’s amazing to me the immensely diverse ways people are wired together by God and then stretched, molded, sometimes warped or damaged, and most always changed by life in this fallen world. No one is ever exactly what they start out to be or imagine they will be. That much is true. (No time here to dig into topics like the Age of Accountability, etc. That’s for another venue.) And no matter the circumstances of how a person goes through life, the basic components of personality never fail to somehow break through and act as a filter through which all the stretching, molding, damaging, and change takes place. I’m still the me I was in the above photo but with an awful lot of window dressing applied to the basic model — hopefully my current interaction with Weight Watchers is going to remove a bit of particular window dressing, but anyway . . .
Back in college, in Educational Psychology I believe it was, we learned that personalities are formed almost to the point of concrete by age four. Is that still the going philosophy? I don’t know, but it sure has stuck with me over the years the importance of early influences on children and how their little lives turn into big lives, just in a more chronologically mature package that includes every single thing that has ever happened to them or in front of them.
As a Christian I believe that Jesus is the core, the Rock at my center, to which I cling during times of stretching, molding, injury, or change even though I do indeed carry around a personality that solidified sometime during my days at the ABC Nursery School around the corner from Lashley Lane in Boulder, Colorado. A lot has happened between then and now but at this point that taproot of personality goes so deep that I’m pretty sure I’m gonna be me until I get a new me in heaven (Now if that’s not deep theology I don’t know what is!). There are a few traits that won’t change just because of the “Sixty” label:
–Tears come easily. My dad always said my bladder was too close to my eyes.
–If you scare me suddenly, expect mad. Then expect recovery. But give me a few minutes. And don’t ask me if I’m okay because that just restarts the clock.
–The compassion I feel for animals almost makes me sick inside sometimes but I hide it because, after all, I’m completely growed up.
–Once my friend, always my friend. No matter the divide. No matter the look from the outside. Maybe there are necessary boundaries or changes, but my heart is still in it.
–I am not a hoarder. I am an organized sentimental rememberer of objects and their importance.
–Occasional garden soil under my fingernails is a necessary component of being well adjusted.
–Restraint is hard to come by if I feel one of my family or friends has been misused. Jesus helps me with that. Sometimes I ask a little too late though.
–A disdain for boiled okra and frogs was written into either my personality or actual DNA. That is a forever thing.
–Music makes me cry. But so do aspen trees and horse races (see Number 1 above).
–Naturally an introvert, I can square up my shoulders and put a song in my heart and get out there and do what I have to do. And then that’s when I turn to garden soil for recuperation.
–Compassion can and often has turned to over-helping. Jesus brings balance to that tendency but sometimes I ask too late.
Along the lines of “asking too late,” and being regretful, my personal prayer list as far as myself is concerned includes and will always include characteristics I desire to be present and visible in me along with those that require tempering. It is during the days of constant sweet communion with Him that “too late” never happens. Through Christ I ask to be: kind, gentle, comforting, quiet, consistent, strong, peaceable, cheerful, encouraging, gracious, reverent, helpful, loving, considerate, busy, discerning, wise, and forgiving. And if I fail miserably I go back and keep praying that He who formed me will craft me into His image. Eventually. As my good friend Isaiah says in Chapter 50, I want to “know the word that sustains the weary” (Isaiah 50: 4b). But I hasten to add that I don’t want to cram it down anyone’s throat.
And so tomorrow I march into the 60s (hopefully on level ground though because going down stairs hurts my hip — heh).
I pledge to look forward with anticipation even though there are decades of sweet memories, nostalgia. You know, don’t you, that the atmosphere surrounding a memory is rarely as reliable as we’d like to think. The air we breathed back then may not have been as full of life-giving oxygen as we choose to remember. More often than not, the air in front of our faces in any given moment holds more life and certainly more reality than if we continually revisit the stale air of the past. It’s best to breathe the air in front of you.*
So, dear friends, family, and those I’ve yet to meet, on this eve of a new decade it is my honor to still be walking with Jesus and to be able to communicate His goodness to you. He’s the God of All My Days. Here’s to another 60 (no, please. No).
Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim His salvation day after day.
1 Chronicles 16:23 NIV
*Please know that if you find yourself in a current situation that is intolerable or dangerous, by all means take steps to change it with the Lord’s help and the help of safe people. Lest we drift into a Pollyanna attitude, let me be the first to say, I get it. I get it. God can be the God of All Your Days.