On Sunday, I entered the second half of my first century and celebrated my fiftieth birthday. For some reason that I cannot really explain, this milestone in my journey of life feels to me like a checkpoint, like a high vantage point where I can see all the places through which I have passed. Instead of focusing on all the wonderful experiences I have had during my travels, my thoughts for the last few months have gravitated upon all the places I thought I’d have gone but never reached. I thought I’d be a home-owner, be successful in my chosen career and be financially stable with some savings for retirement. I must have been distracted when I drove past all those exits on the highway of my life.
I feel as if I have fallen victim to the theological truth expressed by John Lennon:
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
At various times I wanted to be a school teacher, a lawyer, a financial planner and a bank vice-president. Instead, I became a Baptist minister and in the process taught children during vacation Bible school, became an expert in the Law of Moses, managed charitable funds and offered insights on how to store up treasures in heaven. I want to ask myself if I have been successful, but I think that is the wrong question. Have I used the gifts, talents and abilities I have been blessed with to the best of my ability? From this vantage point I can say that it is likely.
I wanted to have sufficient disposable income to travel the world – to see the Grand Canyon, the Leaning Tower of Pisa or the Sydney Opera House. While I have been to Tijuana, the Bahamas, more than half of the US states and a few places in Canada, my greatest memories are insignificant spots. There is an outdoor chapel in my hometown with my fingerprints on it. There is a restaurant, no doubt now closed, in Worcester where I asked Jeanine to marry me. There were four delivery suites at Brigham and Women’s where the loves of my life took their first breaths. There were trips the Disney, Lakeside, Shawme Crowell, and a hotel in Chattanooga where the kids acted like prairie dogs. I want to ask myself why I haven’t seen more, but I think that is the wrong question. Have I seen the things and the places that matter? From this vantage point I can say that it is likely.
I wanted to have my own house. That will likely never happen and that is okay with me. I have become the beneficiary of something better – I have been given a home. I have lived in seven houses in my life and every one of them has been a home; I have always lived in a place of love and laughter, a place crammed with family and friends and fun. I don’t need a deed or a mortgage to give my life meaning. I have a home filled with loved ones and lovely memories for that.
All in all, I thank God for the way the first fifty years have developed. These days were much better than I would have planned. And now I cannot wait for what He will reveal in the next fifty years.
The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way…. Psalm 37:23 (ESV)