62 Years: The Grace and Mercy of God

John ArmstrongPersonal

Today I celebrate my 62nd birthday. I suppose that I never thought much about this stage of life until very recently. Like most people I lived each decade knowing that life was short and my days were numbered. But I had few reference points for living into my sixties. My dad was this age when I was only 25 so it seems hard to recall him at that point in life all these years later.

There is one thing I am sure about regarding my self. I have lived life at too fast a pace. I have been too prone to pursue accomplishment and jobs finished. This was built into my in childhood through a number of influences and the generation in which I grew up made it even more a vital part of my personal story. I was taught to value hard work and to get a lot done. I did both fairly well thus I still wrestle with how to balance centering and quietness with restlessness and high-achievement. The rhythms of life have not been easy for me to discover and embrace in a profound way. To put this simply I am a chronic over-doer living in daily recovery. Stress is my handmaiden and until around the age of 50 I laughed it off as being a Type-A who just got a lot done. Then the dreaded chronic fatigue issue took me down. While I thank God for teaching me how to trust him in my weakness I do not wish this daily struggle for energy and health on anyone.

Simply put: There is a high cost associated with being in a hurry. What I need is a healthy, non-frantic pace of life that allows me to stop and listen, to slow down and to see God’s grace all around me. I did not learn to practice meditation in my evangelical busyness so learning how at this stage of life is not easy. (I’m not sure it is every easy but it must be harder at 62!)

I think I would describe my daily routines for more than five decades as deeply connected with a “schedule driven” life. Pour on some adrenalin and just keep going. Because of this illness I am learning to accept my limitations. He is God and I am not. Of course I always knew that to be true but I am not sure I lived like it really was. I pray that I can develop a deeper courage and grace to say no to things in the future. The hardest part of saying no is to say it to people. I like people. I thrive on being around people and on being accessible to people, helping them if I can. But I cannot help people as I would like to do. The best thing I can do, at least on most days, is to say “No.”

Here is what I am attempting to do now:

1. Spend time in centering prayer, quiet meditation and deepening my listening skills before God and people.

2. Take breaks. Pause, rest, lay down. Enjoy quiet moments when absolutely nothing is getting done at all.

3. Train my mind, body and soul for more intense times by becoming more acutely aware of the things that life can and will throw at me in the days ahead. I have no promise about health or tomorrow. Learn to live in the full light of this reality.  

4. Seek the help of others. This includes counselors, doctors, family and friends. I am pretty good at some things but not so good at others. I need help and I know it now more than ever. If I humble myself there is hope.

It has been said that ideas do not change people, but people change people. While I do believe in the power of ideas I actually believe this saying is more true than I ever realized until very recently. Even the ideas that have most shaped me have done so because people have impacted my life and their thinking has been a part of their story and became a part of mine. People “encounters” matter more than all other awards and honors I’ve experienced in sixty-two years of life. Value people, God does! Make your life count for Christ and His Kingdom!