Today, I complete my 60th trip around the sun. How in the world is that possible? It seems like only a few years ago I was sporting my baby-blue polyester leisure suit, listening to my Eagles' Greatest Hits eight-track and planning on being a surgeon one-day.
Actually, I've been looking forward to this birthday for several months. I find myself filled with overwhelming gratitude that I can say I have made it to 60 and that I'm feeling really good overall. I still remember when 60 sounded old - years have a way of changing how you think about numbers.
But there's also been another side leading up to this day. The past several years has been marked by a level of resentment and self-pity and anger. I've found myself asking questions like:
Have I really been a good steward of what I've been given?
Why did I make so many poor choices - vocationally, relationally, financially?
Why did I connect myself to certain situations and allow my voice to be minimized?
At times, I've felt like the 80-year old version of Private Ryan at the end of the movie Saving Private Ryan and I've wanted to scream to those around me: "Tell me I've lived a good life. Tell me I'm a good man."
The more I talk with others in my season of life, I realize I'm not alone. As actor Anthony Hopkins said, "Getting old ain't for the faint of heart." There is hard work in aging. And yet, the best things in life require hard work. So it is with getting older.
Many social scientists and authors have written about the different stages and seasons of life and how to navigate getting older. I've been reading several books about getting older and how to do it well. One of the common things is that aging is more about acceptance and embracing than fighting against. It's more about living into who you've become and not trying to reinvent a newer, younger better version of yourself. It's more about presence than performance.
One author, Walter Wright, describes our lives as having three thirds. If I am lucky enough to make it to 90 years old like my father did, I am officially entering my third third of life today. (It actually makes me think of the three periods in hockey and I'm honestly hoping for overtime!)
As I start this third period, I know I have more to learn. I have more places to grow. More places to heal. I often wish I would have learned, grown and healed earlier in life. But this is where I am. And I want to steward all of my story well. I hope I can be a voice of encouragement to others on the journey. Let me take a stab at doing that in a simple way:
To my generation, those of us in the third period - We have more to give than many of us think we do. It's desperately needed in our culture - voices of wisdom, peace and calm. Find a place that will value it and offer who you are.
To those in the second third - Life may be crazy for you as your kids are growing up, your careers are developing while you're discovering that you have limits and you may not get everything that you once dreamed about. That's okay. It's even good. As Richard Rohr says, facing our "crisis of limitations" is an important part of maturity. It brings us to the end of ourselves and teaches us to trust One greater than our own plans and agenda in a new way.
And to those in the first third - Dream. Take risks. Develop deep habits that help you grow in faith, hope and love. Find a band of brothers or a sisterhood. Deal with stuff in your life that is tripping you up. It's good to ask for help.
I guess I can summarize the main thing I've learned in my first 60 years of life this way: RELATIONSHIPS MATTER. They matter with God, with my wife and children, with my friends. With my neighbors, with strangers and with my enemies. Get that right, and life will be rich.
So, on this monumental birthday I am grateful, joyful and hopeful that this third third of my life may very well be the best third yet. And, no matter what happens, I am confident of this (as I hear my dad's voice singing these words at the top of his lungs), 'tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.