[dropcap]T[/dropcap]o the surprise of almost no one I was a Halloween baby and have endured “Oh, that explains it” for years.
It probably does explain a lot. All Hallow’s Eve, right? Day before All Saints Day? Is that not what you meant? I do not remind you of all saints?
Today I turn 50 and by all but the most generous of measures this life is more than half spent. Unless I reach 100 years of age, for every day I have lived on Earth I have less than one day left. This ratio will continue to build in a negative direction until my last breath.
It is not a scary thought, but it is a sobering one. I do not fear death, but its reality grows larger in my bifocals moment-by-moment.
Happy Birthday to me.
God gives us but a single take in this life; there really are no do-overs. We cannot rewind time even for a millisecond to right a wrong, get another at bat, rephrase a word spoken in haste, raise our children with patience instead of anger, or restart a marriage from the honeymoon. The old refrain “Only one life, will soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last” gains meaning with each moment.
Personal mortality first waved at me when I turned 40. I saw it and gave a polite nod, but from that point I stopped viewing the end of this life as a blip on the horizon. Death moved into the foreground and planted itself. Solidly.
As has been noted by astute observers there are a few certain things in life. Death. Taxes. Death. Notre Dame needing to be crushed in every sport. Death.
Scarcely a day passes now that this thought or one like it does not cross my mind: “This day is gone. One more down. One fewer left.” Passing life by the workweek is a boorish existence even if life did end at the grave. For those of us who are followers of Christ the rising and setting sun reminds us of the brevity, sanctity and purpose of our handful of years. Or it should.
The challenge for the young is to avoid an unrealistically enhanced longevity expectation. Despite medicine advancing as it has and increasing numbers of people living to be 100, children still die all the time. Teens die all the time. Young adults die all the time. No believer should, in this world of death and dying, presume a long life ahead. Few see 80; many never see seventy; too many never see twenty.
Our years on this globe are threescore and ten. If by reason of diet and exercise (or a heart and lung transplant) we reach eighty we count such a one blessed. Eighty years against eternity.
Little wonder we are encouraged to make the best use of the time.
So, I approach the remaining years of my life not with sadness, not with anxiety, not with frustration, certainly not with despair. Rather, I hope to embrace them fully and walk them faithfully. Just because my days are fewer does not mean than cannot be amazing and productive.
Facing down these closing chapters I wonder if the biggest enemy of a joyous finish is not regrets about the first half. I have many regrets (almost exclusively related to my own immaturity, unwise decisions, bad parenting, and the like). In fact if I choose to constantly attend to those regrets it is likely I would never again know joy. Borrowing from the Apostle Paul, it seems “forgetting those things that are behind” is a good strategy when growing old. If you regret a situation that can be repaired, then seek reconciliation. If things cannot be changed, then move forward and trust God, as He did with Joseph, to work good out of bad.
My regrets, however, are few. I was raised by loving parents in a home that emphasized God’s word. Much of my formative discipleship took place in a church that emphasized God’s word. I’ve been blessed to teach and preach God’s word hundreds and hundreds of times. My wife and children are blessings beyond which I could ever have imagined. I experience “exceedingly, abundantly above all I can ask or think” on a regular basis.
I want to finish strong not because of a misguided desire to be remembered fondly or eulogized meaningfully or quoted positively. I want to finish strong because God deserves the glory it could bring to Him.
For me, that is reason enough.