79. TIME FLIES

TIME FLIES

     It started with a photo my wife came across when sorting through some boxes in our closet.   The picture showed two of my grandkids taken about 8 years ago.  At the time one of them was 5 and the other not quite two.   The little one was looking up admirably at his big sister as she engulfed him in a hug.  Both of them had huge smiles on their faces…..one of those Kodak moments we all love.  As the nostalgia of the moment surrounded her, my wife snapped a picture of the photo with her phone and then texted it to me with the caption,  “Time Flies”.   As I studied the photo I couldn’t help but feel the same way. It seems almost impossible how fast those 8 years have flown by! 

     That, however, was just the start of what has been a week filled with reminders of how fast “time flies”.   That reality came into stark relief as I approached my latest birthday a couple of days ago.  Some people would say I’m not old yet, but I certainly seem to be well on my way!  As I turned 66 earlier this week I realized I’m now twice as old as Jesus was when He died on the cross, and only 3 years younger than my dad was when he died.   I’m not only old enough to be on Medicare, in just two months I’ll be old enough to receive full Social Security benefits.  Yikes!   In fact, when the benefits administrator made a presentation to our church staff this week, he had to explain a special program just for “seniors”.   And let’s not even mention the new rates for my life insurance now! 

     If that weren’t enough,  in a conversation I had this week I mentioned that I had been in the active ministry since I was 19……that’s 47 years ago!   How is that possible?   That became even more real to me as we sent off a younger guy on our staff to plant a church in California.  I gave him my favorite set of biblical commentaries because I realized I wouldn’t be using them much in the future, and he still had 30+ years of ministry ahead of him.   As my career is winding down, his is just taking a huge step forward……just like I did in 1984 when I ventured into California to start a church.   The role reversal is almost hard to believe.  Memories of those days have constantly filled my mind and heart this week.

     Don’t get me wrong……I’m not bemoaning getting older. It’s true I have the requisite set of aches and pains that accompany the decades I’ve lived.  But the reminders of this past week have not made me feel sorry for myself or given me an unhealthy desire to “do it all again”.   Age is just a fact of life, and I’ve found each chapter of my life has offered its own set of challenges and blessings.  As a young man   I was driven by fending for myself, playing a pickup game of  basketball, and finding a way to make some pocket money.  After a stint in the Air Force my focus was altered to getting an education and following the call God had placed on my life.  Meeting my wife at college enlarged those plans, which soon included raising three small human beings.  Between school, work, and changing diapers it seemed the only thing I didn’t have time to do was sleep! 

      As our kids grew older we got involved in Little League, school plays, responsibilities of the job, community involvement, and establishing our own family traditions like attending University of Oregon football games. Before you knew it the kids were off to college, getting married and having kids of their own. Suddenly in our early 40’s we were grandparents!  Now the grandkids are all but grown themselves  (one’s even getting married in a few weeks) and the reality of becoming a great-grandfather seems to be inevitable within the next couple of years.   I still feel like that guy who joined the Air Force at 17 with his whole life ahead of him, but now most of my life is behind me.   It’s been good in so many ways, with a few bumps along the journey, but man oh man…….TIME FLIES

     Part of my own spiritual life is to read the Bible regularly.   I know I’m somewhat prejudiced based on my occupation, but even if I hadn’t invested my life in the ministry I think I would still be drawn to the incredible, practical help I’ve found there.  Recently I came across this verse again from Psalms 90.

“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” – Psalms 90:12

I don’t want to get all preachy or anything, but that’s just good advice. I’m becoming more and more aware that we are all on somewhat of a countdown clock.  We have a certain number of days, weeks, months and years to live.  We are all given 1440 minutes every day and we get to make real choices on how we use those minutes.   Just last night on “Americas God Talent” a young woman who is literally dying from cancer said, You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” Despite a 2% chance of survival, she’s decided to use the moments she’s been given wisely.

     I know I’ve made some good choices in my life.  I’ve reaped the benefit of those choices in more ways that I probably deserve.  But I’ve also made my share of poor choices, and I’ve had to deal with the consequences of those decisions.  While I can look back over the years of my life and see so many positive things, I can’t ignore that there have been heartaches and trials too.  The blur of this thing we call life is a mixture of both.   Our photos capture some of those moments frozen in time for us to reflect on…..like that photo of my two grandkids. Other moments are only captured in our memories, dreams, and deepest thoughts.  But all of those moments are a very real part of who we are. 

    This week has been a reminder to me that “Life is that thing that happens while you’re making plans for something else”.  None of us know exactly what the future will hold, or when the timer of our life will expire.  For some it will happen suddenly in an accident, a heart attack, or some other type of tragedy.  Others are given a diagnosis like that young women on the show last night and offered the time to prepare themselves and those they love for inevitable moment of their passing.   The question isn’t “if” we are going to die, but simply “when” are we going to die.  That’s not morbid, it just the reality that we all must face. Whenever that moment comes,  I don’t want to feel like life passed me by. 

     Perhaps now, more than ever,  I sense the rush of the days I’m living in.  I’ve become very aware that my older body doesn’t move like it used to,  despite my mind telling me I can.  My brain is still working, I maintain some decent skills,  and there are hundreds of people around me that actually like me  (or at least do a good job of faking it!).   I have a roof over my head,  more things on my “To Do” list then I’ll ever really be able to do, and thousands of photos to remind me where I’ve been and the people who have made an impact on my life.   I am more aware than ever that I’m getting older based on my creaky bones, gray hair,  taste in music, and increased reminiscing about days long gone by.   But I’m not done yet.    I think there are still chapters to write in my life story……if I could just get life to slow down a little bit so I could catch my breath. 

     James said,  “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”  (James 4:14).   Based on my size I guess I’m a full blown cloud!!  But he’s right,  I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.  What I can do is remember what yesterday brought.  My life is literally filled with memories of people, places, circumstances and  events, problems and solutions, successes and failures,  happy days and sad days.    That’s life, and as Ferris Bueller said, “It moves pretty fast”.   

    So,  my safe advice gleaned from this week of introspection is pretty simple.   Don’t let your life slip by you unaware.  Slow down, look around, and thank God He’s given you another day. After all,  before you know it, another day will be gone.  It just goes to prove………..Time Flies!