Facing Fifty

Ok, so it’s arrived.  I turned 50 yesterday.  Benchmark birthdays strike each individual differently.  For me fifty has proven to be a big one; well, a challenging one, to be honest.

Maybe it’s because a “half-century” genuinely sounds old (though I’m still too young to qualify for senior specials off the restaurant menu).

Maybe it’s because I’m the youngest son and brother in my family but being fifty doesn’t sound so young anymore.

Maybe it’s because I’m realizing how much of my life is now in the past tense and there is still so much more I want to accomplish.

Maybe it’s because youth is so highly prized on our culture and being fifty takes me out of that ideal category

Yup, I’ve been reflecting on these things a bunch trying to decide how I would process this milestone birthday.  In all honesty I haven’t been all that thrilled with its approach.  When asked why by a friend recently I replied that I once dreamed that I would have accomplished more by the time this day arrived.  I guess that is a veiled way of saying that the approach of my fiftieth birthday was stirring up feelings of disappointment with myself.  My friend immediately pointed that out to me and sent me down the pathway of rehearsing a list of accomplishments in which I should find great satisfaction.

So as I face fifty, here’s a list of accomplishments that reminds me just how great my first half-century had been.

1.  Saved by God’s grace – technically not my achievement by any stretch of the imagination,  but all of God’s.  He did it; I received it. Praise his name!

2.  Married happily to my best friend for 25 years now.  We are still in love and faithfully devoted to one another.  Neither of us would choose differently if given the opportunity.

3.  Three fantastic children who call me “Dad.”  I didn’t say “perfect” children for those keeping track.  That would never work – perfect children with an imperfect dad. My sons and daughter are a joy to me.  All three have professed faith in Jesus Christ as Savior.  My boys are about to graduate from an outstanding Christian university, one heading into local church ministry and the other open to what the Lord has for him.

4.  I still have my parents and have the privilege of ministering to them in their later years.

5.  I have great relationships with all my siblings.  We’re relationally close and we’re not at odds with each other.  By fifty many families have fallen to pieces.  By God’s grace mine hasn’t.

6.  I have had two wonderful local church ministries, one in New York for three years, and the church I’ve now been part of for 21 years.  I get to pastor a great congregation.

7.  I have made some very close friends in my first fifty years.  By this point in my life I’ve had a lot of friends walk into my life and then, due to a variety of circumstances, they’ve left (I’ve reconnected with some of them on Facebook). But I’ve also had a few who have entered my life and stayed, some for a long time (one in particular for more than 30 years).  At fifty I’ve come to realize how truly great an accomplishment it is to have real friends.

8.  I’ve been to Europe, Africa, and South America where I’ve had the opportunity to preach, teach, and meet brothers and sisters who follow the same Jesus that I follow and worship the same God I worship. Life-changing!

9. I’ve learned to preach.  I’ve learned to lead (it doesn’t come natural to me).  I’ve learned to love a congregation.  I’ve learned to cook.  I’ve learned to install a light fixture (did my first one successfully last week).  I’ve learned to be a husband and a dad.  I’ve learned to listen.

I’m sure this list could go on, but it’s long enough to remind me that I am a man whose first fifty years have been momentous.

I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.  I’m not oblivious to the inevitability of difficulties.  I just can see looking back that what lies ahead is a future of more learning and more growing and new accomplishments.  I’m pretty certain the years ahead will be lived with family and friends who love me.  God’s not done yet.

Maybe fifty’s not so bad after all.

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One Response to Facing Fifty

  1. ee says:

    It’s been awhile since I turned 50, come to think of it. I can say that at that point, a lot of what I had thought my life would be like hasn’t happened. That is not necessarily a bad thing, really. God’s plan is best.

    By the way, you can qualify for a few senior discounts now, MJA!!! You don’t have to be a member of AARP to benefit. You and your brother have only reached the first step, while your sister and I have reached the second one. Only our youngest sister has yet to experience the discounts that come with being 50.

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