I’m sixty! How did that happen?
It’s one of the Big Birthdays. It gives rise to jokes like this one.
I enjoy the banter, the banners, the balloons and the bubbly. We celebrate birthdays because we celebrate life. Life is such a gift.
Turning 60 has set me thinking….
‘”For all thy blessings, known and unknown, remembered and forgotten, we give thee thanks,” runs an old prayer, and it is for the all but unknown ones and the more than half-forgotten ones that we do well to look back over the journeys of our lives because it is their presence that makes the life of each of us a sacred journey.’ Frederick Buechner.
My life, like yours, has been a sacred journey, filled with blessings, some remembered and some forgotten. As I pause to reflect on the past 60 years, I remember some of the blessings and I am thankful:
1. For the friends and family who have shared my journey
In 2011, Alan and I both lost our mothers, within 9 weeks of each other. They are representative of the godly heritage we have enjoyed. You can read about ‘the two Bettys’ here. My life has been rich because of them and lots of others – both friends and family members – some who have been there most of my life, some just for a season, but all of whom have enriched my life.
2. For the experiences which have made up my journey
There have been great ones – too many to mention, so I will just highlight the most recent two – the weddings of our two daughters.
Children are a wonderful a gift from God and it has been one of our greatest joys to raise our two daughters and watch them develop their own gifts and choose their own journeys.
There have been tough experiences too – and I am more than ever convinced that it is the hard times which make us strong. As John Ortberg says in his book Soul Keeping, ‘If you ask people who believe in God when they grew most spiritually, the number one answer will be suffering.’ (You can read a review here.)
My own depression was a real ‘dark night of the soul’ (you can read about it here). But I learned important things in that dark night and when I came out of it, I wanted to help others who were suffering in the same way.
3. For my best friend who has shared a lot of my journey
Alan and I married in 1984 so I have been married to him for longer than I was single. To have a true soul mate, one who shares your life in all its ups and downs, is a gift of inestimable worth. Not only does it add zest to life, marriage also shapes us, rubbing off the rough corners as we learn to live with another human being. I often say that I didn’t know how selfish I was until I got married. I have learned so much from Alan. Together we have enjoyed the grace of marriage.
4. For the one who has been my constant companion on the journey
I have had a relationship with God since I was a child. Through the years it has developed and grown but he has always been there, through all the vicissitudes of life. I can’t imagine life without him. As I grow older I’m wanting to learn to ‘practise the presence of God,’ to relate all the circumstances of life to him – to thank him for the good things and to talk to him about the bad things. For the good things are made even sweeter when we pause to thank God for them; and talking to him about the bad things brings his perspective….and his peace, even when we don’t understand.
Life is such a gift. Here’s another quote from Frederick Buechner:
The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.
I think it’s fair to say that I have travelled further in my journey than I have left to travel. I don’t know what’s ahead. Life is uncertain for all of us and we are reminded of that almost daily. I want to finish well. I want to nurture my relationship with God; I want to nurture my marriage as well as my other relationships; I want to make a difference in some other lives; and I want to keep my eye on the finishing line. Good friends of ours, Douglas and Alison Mark, who have lived with cancer for more than 10 years, pray that at every stage they would recognise and understand and see clearly the faithfulness of God. ‘Death is not a termination – but a transition into his presence.’