60 – Just a Number?

So… 40, 50 and now 60 years old… Can you tell?..

I’ve noticed that we have all these things we say as we get older that imply age is an inevitable barrier to the full experience of life. You will have heard them;

60 is just a number…

60 is the new 50…

You’re only as old as you feel

I get it. I do. But it seems part of the intent behind these hurrahs is to stave off the experience of aging with the implication that the sheer act of getting older is to be regarded as a negative thing.

I understand that with age there does come limitation and a decrease in most bodily functions. So that’s the ‘downside’ (if that is in fact a downside – maybe it’s good to slow down). But there is an upside – in fact there are many of them and I take great joy in them. For example;

Identity – I now know who I am and I am ok with me – mostly… Let’s be real – aspects of ‘me’ still need attention, but for the most part I know who I have ‘become’ and the trajectory my life is on and in that I am content. I feel like I have come to grips with the fact that my ‘one job’ in life is to keep moving, allowing myself to be formed in Chrst-likeness in all that I say and do. In one sense that is really hard as it involves a surrender of will, but in another it is equally simple if I can daily, get the ‘surrender’ part sorted. I’m getting better at that as it’s been a focus for many years now and it is coming more naturally. If I can stay on that trajectory then I don’t expect 70 or 80 to be difficult birthdays.

Contentment – Rather than moaning about the capacities I don’t have I can be appreciative of those I still do have. I can’t surf big waves any more… But I can still surf and this week 4 of us hit a little bay on the Coral Coast for a morning of fun waves and it was one of the best experiences I have had in the last little while. Lately I’ve been learning stand up paddle boarding for the first time (which is trickier than it looks…) and I’ve been hitting the local 4wd tracks on a fat wheel electric mountain bike, enjoying the seclusion and the challenge of riding random bush tracks, sometimes getting lost, occasionally getting launched over the handlebars, but mostly just enjoying the exhilaration of a new experience. I may not be able to run any more as my knees are shot, or even play veterans basketball (one groin strain = 8 weeks out) but there is still plenty I can do and that is good.

Contribution – I don’t think I have ever had as much to give as I do in this stage of life. At 60 I know stuff, I have experienced a lot and I even think I may have moments of wisdom. The challenge is to make investments of energy rather than just throwing myself at anything and everyone. I stepped back from senior leadership in our churches to allow some younger men & women to step up. I hope that more of my future will involve standing alongside younger leaders and supporting them as they figure stuff out. I’ve been listening to the Spirit for younger men who I can be praying for and available to. Each morning I pray for these blokes. It’s a somewhat random list and some of them would have no idea I pray for them. But – that’s also one of the things I can definitely do with my time – pray. It’s not sexy work – but it’s important stuff us older people can do.

Discerning Challenges – I want to both practice contentment and pursue challenge. I have seen too many people shut up shop in their later years and simply live a self centred and easy life. I remember hearing one man tell me that he turned the TV on when he got up and off when he went to bed late at night and his life revolved around this focus. I guess that’s one way to spend your twilight years…

I find enormous inspiration in what Caleb said to Joshua when he asked him for his share of the land they had taken:

“So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”” Joshua 14:10-12

The bloke is a beast! He’s 85 years old and ready for whatever life may hold.

So, I am listening for the challenges that I am to accept and pursue. There are soooo many things I could do with the time I have, but with this portion of life feeling like the ‘home stretch’ where every movement counts, I don’t want to waste valuable time and energy on things that don’t matter.

Freedom – We have had the odd discussion around getting another dog. But it’s a completely vexed conversation. Instagram and Facebook show us adorable puppies and the idea of a furry friend is wonderful… But reality is that acquiring a dog would impact significantly on the freedom we have to respond to whatever needs or opportunities we might see. You can’t just ‘lock and leave’ when a dog is involved…

I’m still used to saying ‘we have adult kids’ – even though we now only have one daughter, but she is an adult and fairly independent and (with the exception of this period) usually not so in need of our time. So we have a significant amount of freedom to pull stumps for a period and go work somewhere else. We were going to be helping out Marg River Baps over the next 6 months, but Sam’s death means we are all taking a breath and recalibrating our bearings.

But with a decreased need to earn $$ we do have a much greater degree of freedom than ever before.

Anticipation of Heaven – To be honest I hadn’t given much time or thought to what happens after this life here and now, but Sam’s death forced me to ponder it more deeply. The first thing I realised after he died was that my ‘hope’ was a deeply embedded conviction and not just a ‘theory’ I hoped might come true. I wasn’t panicked or disturbed about where Sam may now be – and while I am deeply sad at losing my son, I find myself actually looking forward to the day when we will be reunited. I find myself beginning to anticipate a form of life that at this stage I have very little clear description of what shape it will take. So my pondering around the next life has formed a much stronger anticipation of its inevitable reality – and I am really pleased at that.

So that’s just a quick list of up-sides to aging that popped into my mind while I was sitting here pondering the actual experience of ‘being 60’. If I can dodge the various health bullets that seem to take out blokes my age then I reckon there are at least 20 good years left! And after that who knows…

I’m really hoping and expecting that the best is yet to come!

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