I’m young for my age and so all year till now, I’ve been watching my former classmates turn fifty and finally it’s my turn. Many of these same friends have Facebook pages filled with pictures of them with their college freshmen or even recent college graduates. I’m on a different path; Lindsay and I have five children and the oldest is but seven. Yes, I had a late start. And yes, she is much younger than I.
Birthdays like this—when the AARP solicitations begin—are a time for reflection. I’m not at all where I thought I’d be at this age partly because I never thought about it. Most of my early life was dedicated to working for organizations and causes I believed in and when that proved to be ultimately unfulfilling (in an eternal sense), I began at thirty-seven what I should have done at twenty-two and looked for a nice girl to settle down with and raise a family. Thank God I found her, or perhaps she was a gift dropped from above, and we’ve been married eleven years now.
So, with my remaining lucid years I have a somewhat clear path before me. I need to make enough money at whatever jobs I can piece together in Bristol Virginia, serve the friends of Highlands Ministries, be a meaningful part of my local church family and raise our children to love and serve the Lord so that they will, in turn, serve their neighbors, be a blessing to their church and raise their children to love and serve the Lord.
No longer do I have goals like hiking every mountain in Europe or visiting all the Major League Baseball parks. Sure, my time and financial resources are limited, but also I cannot focus on much beyond the critical and absorbing tasks before me. To raise the children the way they ought to go, or how I’m convicted about it—requires constant interaction and tons of time. Heck, some days I’m just happy to keep them all alive and relatively unscarred.
Many of my friends are just hitting their stride in their careers, some are doing very well and becoming leaders in their field. I oversee a very small ministry and have to take other jobs to make ends meet. There are no significant salaried jobs in Bristol to speak of and were there to be, I wouldn’t want to be gone from my home fifty to sixty hours a week. Besides all that I need to do at home with a sick wife and little ones and the necessities of daily life, I simply want to be home to enjoy my family and all the little moments that make being a father such a delight.
My drive to “succeed” isn’t there any longer. I no longer want a big title or a deep rolodex. My quest for money that used to involve the accumulation of goods and the gaining of experiences has been reduced to survival—food and shelter for the family. If I get that, I’m good.
Life seems simpler than it once was even though there are many more moving pieces. Rather than pursuing a variety of goals with equal fervor, I’m pursuing one goal and trying to keep everything else in service to it. That goal of pursing God for myself, my wife, my children and for my sphere of influence is a mind and spirit rejuvenator. The rest fades in the background (at least on the good days).
In a few months, our baby will be born, Lord willing. That will be good work for 2018. Baptizing him or her, or them, keeping the house in order during the first trying months, integrating a new soul into an already busy household, keeping discipleship, discipline and school on track, remembering to love each other as we ought, carrying our crosses daily, remembering to not forget about God’s love and provision; that will be a great accomplishment.
Where I once might have looked on a year without raises, promotions or some tangible sign of financial or career forward progress, I now look at my years—even when we seem to be standing still—as full of value, eternal value. It doesn’t seem so many days and so I have to remind myself and Lindsay of that fact. Institutions, even very fine ones that I have served, will go away as will that Porsche and Range Rover I once desired.
What won’t go away, what won’t be burned up, is whatever good work we can do for the kingdom with the time we’ve been given and, of course, the precious souls of our children and grandchildren and the faithful generations that they raise up to love and serve our Lord.