Actually, I’m 54 but who’s counting?
Anyway, those extra four years only bolster my feelings in this post. To me, fifty seems like a perfect age. Still far enough from elderly to be lumped into rank of fogey, but old enough to be considered seasoned, bordering on ‘Ask Scott, he’s fairly wise…’
I didn’t enjoy the 30’s or even my 20’s so much and I’ll tell you why. As a fledgling preacher, I was kind of a novelty. Young and (at times) fiery, certainly passionate, the tendency was mostly for the established saints to dote on me and the youth to take a wait-and-see attitude.
Now, mind you, I don’t mind being doted on, even occasionally grandma-kissed, and the friendly chiding by the elder statesman of the church, but these things always reminded me of my youth. These harmless condescensions made me feel that I couldn’t be taken seriously until I got some gray, lost some hair, gained a spare tire, and been a few miles.
I couldn’t wait until I was 40. That was the golden mean of age, for sure.
Sadly, that was the decade of ongoing church confrontations, stressful ministry, painful separations, difficult life decisions, difficult people, battling jadedness, struggling with my theological identity, straining against personal disappointment, coming away from it all embattled, bloodied, scarred and unsure.
I resigned my post as “pasture” of my Douglasville flick after a 17-year stretch in the final year of that decade, but, ironically, not because of any of these things. They may have helped in making the decision easier, but the bottom line is God said,
You’ve finished well, Scott. You and Sandy have done everything I asked of you in this time here, and now it’s time to step aside. I’m taking you somewhere else…
Accompanying these kindly words was the sense – the why of it all – that I had been in Douglasville all those years more for what He was getting out of me, than what I was offering to my flock. There was a packed house that final Sunday, a heightened spirit, and the sense of the Great Shepherd’s “well done” to both Sandy and me. My final words to the New River flock can be found here (sorry the pictures are missing…I totally look like Brad Pitt and Sandy is as beautiful as, well, Sandy).
Then came 50.
I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes (my A1c level was 12), almost died in my bed, was transported to an Atlanta hospital, nearly died there, was on IV antibiotics for 16 weeks, diagnosed with deadly strains of E. coli and staph aureus along with MRSA (for you medical people). You can my read my account of this trying season in “Jubilee” parts 1-3 in September/October of 2010 (these are easily navigated from the archives tab in the menu bar).
I truly feel – despite the litany of physical setbacks – that my turning 50 has been a festival, a freeing from lingering bondages and constraints, a sounding of triumph and celebration, a …gift.
While most aging folk talk about their aching backs and tired bones, I have nothing but romanticized feelings for my fifties and it only increases as the years take flight and later years roost at my door before taking flight themselves.
I love growing older, and I’d love to tell you why.
I LIKE WHO I AM
I LIKE WHO’S WITH ME
I LIKE WHAT I’VE LEARNED
I LIKE HOW I’VE GOTTEN HERE
I LIKE WHAT’S AHEAD
I’m happy. I’ve been shown great grace and I love to give grace. I am mostly patient, willing to wait for the better to come along but rest in and enjoy the good that now is. I’m unemployed but actively participating in the Kingdom so I don’t feel I’m missing out or taking up space. I love to laugh. I’m not as self-conscious these days but still not so much that I like mirrors or having my picture taken. I said “not as.”
The Swedes have a proverb that is a commentary on my marriage to Sandy: “shared joys are double joys; shared sorrows are half-sorrows”. I’ve never had to struggle with roles in my marriage to my bride, who submits to whom, is she my equal counterpart, am I first in rank, just who’s in charge, etc. that’s all been worked out easily enough and tells me we have an Edenic marriage. I love doing life with Sandy! She makes me…better. Browning put lyric to my thought when he penned “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be…” This is my enduring invitation to my love, played on a never-wavering loop.
I like that I don’t have to know everything, that I understand where I’m strong and where I’m not necessary and I don’t have to worry about it because others will fill those parts. I’ve learned I can come through the hardest issues of life and look back on it all with, yes, joy. Jesus loves me, enthrallingly, relentlessly so, and this is His only inclination, even with discipline. I’ve learned being pleasant can change the atmosphere of a room or an ornery salesperson. And I’ve learned that people, deep down, only want you to take time to hear their stories – and not reject them.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change the path that has gotten me to this place. I may not enjoy reliving some of the episodes along the way, but I’d still choose the same path. I’m grateful I got to grow up in a family that taught manners and kindness, respect and gratitude for these have shaped my value system. Marrying Sandy, adopting Graham, choosing ministry, learning to hear God amid the cacophony of competing voices…these are the warp and woof of my delightful existence. They give my life its melody.
I’m not being fitted for a rocking chair, I’m not content to sit and look reminiscently out a picture window of bygone days and better years. Nay, for me, I still believe I’ve not yet discovered my whole purpose for being on earth, but know instinctively I will one day reach out and lay hold of it. I’m a blessed man and if I die anytime soon, I’ll die with not one single regret. I do hope my Father gives me more time to love Sandy, be a friend and father, sort out the flaws that pester me, and go to deeper depths of learning about the grace of an infinite, holy God to set His affections astoundingly…on me.