Thoughts on turning 50:
Today I turn 50 years old! I love having a birthday. I don’t usually do a lot for it, but I find that it is a day of giving thanks. And I have thought about this one for a long time. I have always admired my friends who turned 50 well. They have embraced two realities. One reality is that at this point in life, the stage is largely set, and the path (rut) is pretty well defined in that habits and ways of being are well-engrained. I know this well. I know what I enjoy and what I don’t. I have a lot of clarity on what makes me anxious and what makes me thrive. And for me, my job is set at least for the next several years. But the second reality is that there is an odd freedom in this time of life. I have seen people change profoundly while staying the same. I know that sounds like a paradox. What I mean is that while my friends have stayed themselves in terms of their personality and their habits and their jobs, within that they have expanded themselves profoundly as they have explored new territories, be they spiritual and theological realms, complex and challenging hobbies, movement practices, physical travel or in a new way what they are already doing. I am excited about this moment in my life. I know God transforms us slowly over the course of a whole lifetime.
In fact, I am encouraged immensely by Carlo Carretto’s insight that “God does not hurry over things. Time is his, not mine.” We know that God works on a vast temporal canvas. The universe that we know is 13.7 billion years old. Our own earth is 4.5 billion years old. Humans have been around for about 200,000 years. Writing only appeared about 5,400 years ago. Cars have only been in use for the last 150 or so years. And we are now about 1,990 years past the resurrection of our Saviour. That is about 60 generations of Christians. And now here I am, in 2023, a bishop in the church for about 10 or 15 years. Who knows how many generations of Christians will come after? If we find solutions to our existential problems and get to the year A.D. 5,437,389 that will be another 543,000 generations of Christians beyond ours.
Every human story in all of those generations is unique and holy. Every human story is one of the gift of existence, loved by God in all of one’s unique particularity. Every story is one of love and loss, of struggle and finding maturity. Ultimately, it is a story of learning to love maturely within whatever community we find ourselves in. To love maturely is to have found the grace to wrestle with our fears and anger and not let them rule over us, but to find the freedom to love deeply and well beyond the boundaries of family, nationality, race, culture, and expectations. It is to enter into the realm that Jesus showed us, to love fully even those that are hard to love. This is the work of a lifetime; work even going beyond our lifetime to the “place” where our hearts are healed and made whole in the glorious presence of the blazing divine love of God in eternity. We will see Christ face to face and what a tremendous joy that will be.
All of that is big, and right now I am drinking my coffee and enjoying reading all of the birthday greetings on Facebook. I give thanks that I am here and that I get to live my story. I know that I am pretty set in my ways. I am definitely a boring creature of habit and routine. But I look forward to the space in this decade to expand, to learn to love deeper, and to be more fully who God has created me to be. I am grateful to have the position that I have and to get to play a small part in Christ’s great work of love and salvation. I am excited to turn 50!