Who is that looking back at me in the mirror? What happened to the young man that had a head full of red hair? When did the hair start to turn gray? Well, at least there is still hair on top the head. But he doesn't look as young as he once did. He doesn't seem to have the stamina and the vigor that he once had. When did that happen? He was sure that he would always be filled with vim and vigor and could accomplish anything with enough drive and positive thoughts.
Reality, it sets in so suddenly. After 55 years, which I know some will say "I wish I was only 55," begins to show that you are not a young man any longer. I learned at 30 that I cannot compete with the teens as I found myself with ankle reconstructed follow a ice skating accident. Yes, I was still trying to act young and found out that I wasn't. At 40 I found that the knees were not what they once were and started to pay the price for all the running, the gymnastics and the flag football that I did. I should have known that when I was playing flag football at the Seminary, those knee injuries would come back to haunt me. And they did. After having them cleaned up in the 40's, I am told to take care of them, which of course, I don't. I still think that the knees are those of the 20 year old guy when they bark back at me and tell me that I am the age of the speed limit on most two lane roads. But I want to be able to go more than that and they just smile and say, "no."
Do I feel like I am double nickels? Not really. But then at times I do. Does it matter? Not really. I just keep doing what I can, when I can and face the fact that I will have pay the piper at some time, if not now, then later. That is the way of life. Would I go back to being 25, or 35 or 45? No I wouldn't. All the aches and pains I have today are a result of the learning and growth that has taken place over these years. I have great memories that go with all those aches and pains. For all the fried chicken, chicken fried steak, pork tenderloin sandwiches from Elam's Silverfross Root Beer drive-in, and all the like, I have great memories. Each time I try to kneel and feel the knees groaning and complaining, I remember with joy the times on the parallel bars or the rings, the running around the basin at Lake Decatur, or the host of other events that I have enjoyed in life.
More than that, I rejoice that I have had the years to enjoy my life with Penny. She said that she had celebrated 37 birthdays with me. And that blew me away. It is true. We have shared all those years together. I wouldn't trade them for anything. It has made our relationship what it is today. She is my love, my strength, my joy, my hope, my encourager and my wife. She is the only one that truly understands me. (Yes, I know that that Lord takes first place in all things. She is a gift to me from the Lord. He is the One that guides our life together. He makes it full and exciting. Gives us the love we share. Has covered over all our sins. Granted us more blessings together than we deserve.) I have two wonderful adult children who have given me so much joy for 27 and 25 years. They are the sparkle of my life. I love them so much and to go back to the younger years would rob me of them and they love they bring to my life. Add to that the fact that I also have another son through marriage, though he feels more like a son than a son-in-law, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Every one of those gray hairs is worth it just to have them where they are in their lives.
There are so many other things I could reflect on - the parishes I have been blessed to serve either as full-time pastor, vacancy pastor or visiting sermon slinging pastor, the classmates I had in grade school, high school, college, seminary and more, the people I have met, the people I wish I wouldn't have met, the folks that have wiggled their way into my heart and life, the extended family that I love so much and that drive me nuts at time, and the list could go on. All of these and much more were blessings that the Lord has given me over the past 55 years. I wouldn't trade them for anything. Even the hard times, the frustrating times, the terrible times, the dark times, the fearful times have made me who I am today.
Through them all, there has been one constant - my Lord Jesus Christ. He has never forsaken me. He has never left me. He has lifted me through sorrow and grief. He has been with me on the operating room table and in the pulpit. He has guided me when I needed to share words of comfort and has been the One who has guided others when I needed a word of comfort. His love is complete. His love is full. His love overflows. His love is shown on the cross and at the empty tomb. His love is given freely and bountifully. And I have been blessed to receive that love for 55 years. There has never been a moment in that time when He hasn't been with me. My heart overflows with thankfulness for all that the Lord has done for me.
I pray that I can be a blessing to others, that I can share that love of Christ in some way so that each one can feel the same assurance that I have in my life. I am certain that nothing, neither life nor death, neither loneliness or fear, neither joys or comfort can separate me from the love of Christ. If there is one thing I would share at this time in life is that very thing - CHRIST IS MY ALL IN ALL AND IS MY LORD AND SAVIOR.
Thank You Lord for the 55 years. It has been a wild ride but it has been great. Here's to another 55 years, or however many the Lord gives to me.