A Time to Be Born and a Time to Die

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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“Do you think you are getting old, and is that hard for you?”

So asked the student as our hiking group sat along the trail for a break. It’s become apparent, I guess, that I am no longer in their age group. I never was, having joined a campus ministry organization at 25 when college students were as many as seven years younger than me. I have always felt young around them and still do at 39, which is why a question like this feels like it is being asked of someone else. I want to look over my shoulder before responding, “Oh, you mean me?”

References shifted a few years ago from “You remind me of my brother” to “You remind me of my dad,” and I still haven’t quite gotten used to them.

It’s true, I’m bald and grey-bearded and showing the lines of weather. Comments and questions like this come with the territory. Yet I still feel like a kid. I’m a middle-schooler who skates through the kitchen in slippers and talks in a foreign accent for effect.

A few nights ago, my wife and I sat on the couch for a movie. During the previews, my general silliness made her laugh and she said, “Do your friends know this is how you really are?”

Some do, and I’ll take that risk, though it does have a bittersweet taste. It’s like I’m twenty years younger than my skin and there’s nothing I can do about my skin. I sit on the floor playing cards with our girls and have to move every few minutes to keep my knees from locking up. I’m down to one last comfortable position sleeping. I have to sit if the church music goes on too long.

So I’m getting older. Injuries only hibernate now. Bad habits appear harder to shake, and I wonder if I’ll have to put up with them like an arm cast. On the other hand, I still have dreams and I work toward them. I can see more clearly than when I was an invincible lad, and I’ve got more resources to pursue those dreams. I also have clearer recognition regarding what bits of culture I might affect for good. I see where institutions and organizations could use a boost.

My potential for having a lasting impact grows every year, it seems.

Age has brought with it experiential wisdom, resilience, and clarity. And, yet. And, yet, there is this: I’m going to die. Not tomorrow, I hope, but someday. Birth and death are parameters. It does not matter how badly I want to change the world and what aspirations I hope to achieve, I can only work for so long. There is a time to be born and a time to die, and that's that.

The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds me of this fact, and it checks me. I am a change agent with faults and an expiration date. I don’t mean to be a downer, but, hey, a young adult asked me the getting-old question just two short weeks ago. One moment I’m feeling quite smug about my light-footed ability to keep up with these lasses, and the next I’m Gandalf the Grey, leaning on his trekking poles.

I laughed to myself when we returned to the trail. I could see my wrinkles and aging beard and wondered if that’s how they see me. Or do they see the kid in me first? It does not matter. I realized a bit more then that youthfulness is in the eye of the beholder. I have full permission to keep playing. And I wasn’t told when I could stop trying to be an agent of reconciliation in the world. Jesus simply said to go and do it, come laughter or pain.

So I will. I just may need more assistance.

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The "Season for Everything" Collection

Image by Patricia Hunter. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post written by Sam Van Eman.