“I am fifty-one. I am no longer middle aged.
I can think of no one in my family who has lived to 102.
I am somewhere in the third quarter…
Almost every morning I walk at least one mile. It is sometimes two miles but most often somewhere in between. I walk in my neighborhood with my Golden Retriever Mia and my dad (one of which wears a choke collar to make them calm down). Weather is a non-factor. Mia is a sporting dog and sporting dogs need to walk each day, so we walk irregardless of the weather. Today I was thinking about being fifty-one years old. It occurs to me that growing older has been inevitable but growing as a person has been a conscious choice. Fifty-one has been better than expected. God has blessed my ministry beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I still play about 75 softball games a year. My body hurts really badly for about 36 hours after a game but it also hurts when I do nothing at all so I am going to play another year. I can still do most of what I could do when I was younger and on a given day I am as good as I ever was. I am also a lot better husband (ask Melissa), a more caring person (you will have to take my word) and a whole lot more comfortable in my skin than I used to be (usually).
Today I was thinking about what God is teaching me about life and decided to share seven insights with you:
- Relationships are more important than being right I learn a lot from being in relationships. I learn nothing from dogmatically arguing the relative merits of my point of view. I have decided I would rather be a lifetime learner and a good friend than a know-it-all, self absorbed lobbyist. Jesus said to love God and love neighbor; both commands are about being in relationship!
- Live well My grandpa Hal Bishop died at 51. He was a hard driving man who had his first heart attack on the baseball field (we are clearly nothing alike). It occurs to me that I best be getting at anything I want to make sure gets done in my life. I don’t want to live an unfinished life.
- Grace is crazy cool I have always cognitively known I am saved by grace but I think that after fifty years, I am starting to get it. Grace is a gift. I can’t earn it and I don’t deserve it. Grace is offered in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am not saved because I am good; I am saved because God is good. My salvation rests upon God’s grip on me, not my grip on God. This may be double crazy cool.
- I am not as smart as I used to be I was asked to speak at a conference earlier this year and responded, “You should have asked me a few years ago when I knew more.” At fifty-one, I find myself more aware of the contributions of others to any success I have enjoyed, more comfortable with the big picture, less concerned about the little stuff and thankful to God for any abilities He may have had entrusted to me. You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room when you realize you are the most blessed.
- You can’t change the past You can’t live forward looking backward. We must repent of mistakes we have made, make restitution where we can, accept God’s forgiveness and move on. While we can’t change the past, we can certainly not allow miscues of the past to define our futures! Why waste the resurrection by refusing God’s offer of forgiveness and restoration?
- Make sure you are having fun Life is a gift. Enjoy it and if you don’t, do something you do enjoy.
- Do things you will never regret I have this life-bucket called, “Things I will never regret.” These include every moment I spend with Melissa, morning walks with dad, Sunday lunches with mom, speaking an encouraging word to my children, laughter, tractor rides with my grandchildren or sending someone who has touched my life a word of appreciation. I will never regret these things.
Take a brisk walk this week. If it is too hot where you live, set out at sunrise. Think about how you are changing and the things God is teaching you at this stage of your life. Write them down and share them with someone you love. Growing in wisdom is an offering to the Lord. It tastes as good as southern sweet tea in a ball jar!
Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.