Last month I faced two dates that I wished I could prevent from happening – December 20 and 21.
December 20 was my birthday. I would be a year older – specifically age 73. This date reminded me that I would prefer not to be growing older. I have so much to do. Not just things I have wanted to do but things that I truly believe God has given me to do. Every week I hear about someone around my age who has died. It crosses my mind that my father died at the age of 59 and my father-in-law at age 73. So growing older was not something I really looked forward to. Because it meant that every year – every day – was moving me closer to the time when I would leave this world, and so much would be left undone. If only there would be a way to stop the clock, maybe just for a few years. Ideally I could celebrate my birthday, but not become another year older. But I knew it doesn’t work that way. Time continues to go by.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was December 21. The day after my birthday. The day I started to live my 73rd year of life on this earth. The problem I always have with that date is that in this part of the world it is also the first day of my least favorite season of the year – winter. I don’t like winter because it gets cold and dark and damp, and it brings snow – which I like to look at – but from a distance. One of the great things about my service in the Navy was that the ships on which I served were sailing around the Mediterranean Sea during the winter months. How I remember the warmth and bright sunshine of those days. And at the same time I could enjoy seeing a lot of snow – far off in the distance in the French Alps. The closest I got to actually touching snow was during a one day sightseeing tour in those mountains. But one day that all came to an end, and it was back to spending winter in the cold and snow here in the northeastern part of the USA.
So December 21, the first day of winter, was another date I did not look forward to experiencing. But on the other hand, I remembered that in the midst of this bad news about the start of winter, and all of it’s negative aspects (as I saw it, anyway), I realized there was good news. The first day of winter is the shortest day of the year, and the longest night. At this time of year, in this part of the world, night starts about 4PM. However, the good news in the midst of the bad news is that starting on the day after the first day of winter, daylight is extended by the rate of about two minutes a day. which means that one month in the future, daylight will be extended, and night will be diminished by about an hour. And as this process continued in future months, the warmth and sunshine of spring and summer will again return full blast. For me that is truly good news in the midst of bad news.
All of this reminded me of something I wrote in our church newsletter around this time 12 years ago. In that article I was already bemoaning that I was getting older and that winter was coming. At the same time I was trying to come up with a message of hope for the people of the church, most of whom were near or above my age. I had just turned 61. I read that article again, and realized that my concluding comments still applied now as well as back then. So I thought that there are probably others out there who might be reading this blog today, who were also kind of torn between wanting to celebrate a birthday or new year and at the same time wishing that time would stop, or at least slow down for a while. So here’s wat I said:
“I have good reason to ignore, defy, and deny my aging. The advertising industry, in their effort to sell certain products, tells me (or implies) that there’s something wrong with looking older. Someone recently told me that the golden years (a euphemism for old age) are more like brass years.”
“I realized there just isn’t enough time to do all the things I once hoped to do. But wait a minute, who says I have to believe the advertising industry? Do I really need gold when I’ve gotten this far living with brass? Is the point of life to do all that I want to do, or to do whatever God gives me to do, with whatever time God gives me, knowing He will give whatever I don’t finish to someone else?”
I take it all back (my issue with aging). As Louis Armstrong once sang, I’ve Got a Lot of Living to Do. So on with the aging process. On with winter. On with the new year. I will not be ashamed of or fear the reality that I am now 73 years old.”
On New Years Day, 2013, Patty and I celebrated the completion of the first year and a half of the formation of Ray of Hope Ministries and the publishing of this blog, Today’s Enlightenment. Our message has been and will continue to be that with God there is always hope, even when all things look hopeless. There is always good news in the midst of bad news. Right here and now, we can experience some degree of God’s peace, love, and joy, regardless of our age or the season of the year. And in God’s time and God’s way, this will all be fulfilled – forever – in this world, in this universe, as it is in heaven.
Grace and peace,