Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Reflections on Turning Sixty-Five

When you're young, you can't imagine that you'll ever turn sixty-five.  For me in 1969 at age fifteen, the year of Apollo 11 and Woodstock, even the year 2000 seemed impossibly far away.  Why, in that year, I'd be turning 46!  I'd be as old as my MOTHER.  It was so far away I couldn't imagine ever getting there.

But I'm so grateful that I reached not only the year 2000 but 2019.  So many of our dear friends and family have died before reaching 65.  Every day is a gift.

Here are a few things for which my appreciation has deepened over the years:

A long marriage.  There were no divorces on either side of our family when I was growing up, so I took for granted that marriage was "'til death do us part."  Now that we have navigated through 45 years ourselves, and have seen the shipwreck of so many marriages of people close to us, I know how precious and rare is a long, happy marriage. Inside jokes, shared memories, shoulder-to-shoulder work in ministry, accomplished goals, heartbreaking disappointments, lifelong friends, and ever-sweetening romance...these knit our souls together, stronger with every passing year.  And even as age and gravity take their toll on our physical appearance, nothing changes the way we see each other.  In my eyes, Bill is that young man I married, and he always will be.

A healthy church.  Over the years we've belonged to wonderful churches.  They have been like our family as we have moved around the country.  They have taught us the gospel of grace, the beauty of Christ, the riches of God's Word, the privilege of worship and the joy of service.  Our current church is a place where the leaders are servants, the people are loving, gossip is rare and community is real.

A loving family.  What defines "a loving family" to me is one that continues to love unconditionally even when its members disagree with each other, disapprove of each other's behavior, hold different worldviews, disbelieve each other's faith, drive each other crazy and forgive when they hurt one another--purposefully or not.  I married into such a family and will be eternally grateful for that.

Beneficial work to do.  Work that is good work benefits the worker and others.  I'm aware as I rise on any given morning that someone has worked to make the device that wakes me up, the draperies I pull back to let in the sun, the clothes I put on my back, the coffee maker and the coffee for my first cup, and printed the Bible for my daily reading.  Someone has worked to pick up our curbside trash and deliver our paper.  I get the privilege and benefit of working, too--of making my bed and doing the laundry, of washing the dishes, preparing supper, studying to teach a Sunday school lesson, and teaching piano.

Good health. Each new day can bring the unexpected diagnosis, accident or fall.  So not having to take any medication--sleeping and feeling well--is great at any age, and especially at 65!  I've survived 15 automobile accidents and 2 bouts of malignant melanoma.  If there are guardian angels, mine must be exhausted by now.

Real friends. These are God's therapists for my soul.  With them I laugh hard, talk long, play freely and cry unashamedly.  I tell them my prayer requests and they actually pray.  They stick with me when I'm being an idiot. 

Here are a few resolutions I am hoping to keep going forward:  Mary Beth...

Don't give advice or opinions unless someone asks for them.  Yes, you think your observations and experience might be helpful.  But no one really wants to hear them.  So keep quiet about such things unless and until asked.  What people really need is a listening ear, an encouraging word, and a warm hug.  Offer those things.

Spend more time developing relationships and fostering community.  You may be a "3wing2,", an "ENFJ," and an "achiever-activator," but building a friendship is an accomplishment, too.

Never stop learning.  Remain curious.  Always be formulating the follow-up question.

Don't let fear become a controlling or a motivating factor in your life.  "Perfect love casts out fear."  Keep taking risks.  Be willing to fail.  You saw fear limit your parents tremendously in their later years.  Lord, help me love and trust you for however many more years you have for me.

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