Finish Well

If you’re like me, more of life is in the past than the future. Fortunately it takes longer to arrive at that halfway mark than it did 100 years ago when the average life span was around 50. Today, if you retire at 65, you could have 20 to 30 years ahead of you. The way you approach aging does not have to be a long slow decline, even if your body says otherwise.

Bob Buford’s book Halftime explores the possibilities of a longer life. He inherited a business, which he eventually sold for enough to fund his retirement. But he didn’t know what to do next. He sought the advice of business guru Peter Drucker who surmised, “You’re in halftime, Bob.” You spend the first half of your life trying to survive and succeed. With today’s U.S. average life expectancy of 79 years, you can spend your latter years moving from success to significance. “Halftime” is when you decide the most rewarding way to do that.

Eugene Peterson’s book A Long Obedience in the Same Direction is about persistence in learning to walk with, and toward God. Lamenting that our society has become so enamored with instant gratification, he reflects on Psalms once sung by pilgrims traveling to Jerusalem. He sees the Christian life as such a journey. Worship, service, and community add significance to life even as we sense our destination drawing nigh. Longevity is your opportunity to model a persistent, growing faith.

The poet Wadsworth penned verses he called “A Psalm of Life.” His life was marked with suffering and tragedy, but that only clarified to him what really matters. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest, was not spoken of the soul. His exhortation becomes more poignant as we age. Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time; Footprints, that perhaps another, sailing o’er life’s solemn main, a forlorn and shipwrecked brother, seeing, shall take heart again.

How can you be significant, live a long obedience in the same direction, and make your life sublime? Jesus simplified and summarized God’s desire for you. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:35-40). However you answer the question, let it include faith, humility, service, and joy.

Here is another encouragement as you contemplate the frailties of aging. God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Your response? “I will boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9). May God be with you in this season of your life.

Starstruck Mystery

Our town has the advantage over the big cities. We can see the stars. The ones in the sky, not on the red carpet. The human fascination with the night sky says something about us.

Scientists say the observable universe is 93 billion light years in diameter. In that space are billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars. Yet when you tilt your head heavenward at night, you might see 5000 stars from horizon to horizon. What you see hints at the unseen. It captures the imagination, and makes you feel small. Alister McGrath (“Glimpsing the Face of God”) writes, “Maybe the stars point to something mysterious, something unfathomable, which somehow lies beyond them. Something seems to lie beyond the whispering orbs of the night. But what? And how is it to be known?”

Since the times of Adam, Abraham, and Moses, God has been revealing himself through creation while promising a personal appearance. Yet what human could fathom how the transcendent One, vaster than the visible stars in the sky and the invisible galaxies beyond, could actually care about this speck of dust and the people who live on it? The ancient text says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He counts the number of the stars; He gives names to all of them. Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite” (Psa. 147:3-5).

Someone steps into history. Could he be the Son of Man who was with the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7? Was this the child born to be called Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God in Isaiah 9? Would he initiate the new covenant in Jeremiah 31? Would he bring good news to the afflicted, bind up the brokenhearted, and free the prisoners per Isaiah 61? One day in Jerusalem a gathering crowd thought so. “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest,” they cried out. The skeptical religious leaders demanded an end to it. Jesus said, “If these become silent, the stones will cry out!” It was a pregnant moment. Something was happening far beyond what was visible to the eye, a man riding on a colt over coats and palm branches laid before him. They were worshipping him and he did not object (Luke 19, Matt. 21).

We are fascinated with the night sky because we sense there is more to reality than we see or comprehend. We are attracted to the beauty of light amidst deep darkness. Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life” (John 8:12). Follow that Light and you will know the mystery beyond the stars.