Yesterday I turned 59 years old and I wasn’t feeling good about it. I took my 50th birthday hard, because I realized that 50 years of my life just filtered through my hands like grains of sand at the beach. Turning 59 was not as bad for me as when I turned 50, but I am wondering about my next birthday.
I’m already thinking about my next birthday when I turn 60. I’m expecting that the 60 year mark will feel odd and bring another wave of grief for a life gone past and a desperate hope that it didn’t pass all these years without value, purpose, and impact to others.
I am thinking that on this very day, Gene Simmons, the musician and mastermind of the rock band KISS is touring, traveling from city to city, banging on his bass guitar, and spitting fake blood and fire on stages across America.
Why am I thinking about that? Because Gene Simmons is 72 years old. The Rolling Stones are about to go out on tour and Mick Jagger is 78 years old, Keith Richards is 77 years old, and Ron Wood is 74 years old. I’m only 59 years old.
As a teenager one of the rock anthems that influenced my attitude was The Who’s My Generation. Some of you may remember the lyrics, “I hope die before I get old,” penned by Pete Townshend, who happens to be 76 years old.
You may have heard me share this in my personal testimony, but as a teenager I never expected to live pass my 21st birthday. I didn’t see any value in living beyond that and never expected to, but assumed my rock and roll lifeline would end with an eventual overdose.
On this, my 59th birthday, I am still surprised to be here but seeing others defy that anthem in their older age, does bring me some comfort that I have years yet to give to the pastoral care calling within me.
I am also thinking about the return of Jesus. Forty years ago when I first got in to church ministry I remember old ministers sharing advice with us younger guys just getting started in ministry. One piece of advice was to not overlook planning for retirement, as many of them lamented doing. I remember thinking, Jesus will definitely return by the time I am even close to retirement.
My hope is still in the Lord’s return and my confidence is still in His providence and provision because I have no plans to retire from ministry. Those older ministers and myself at the time were part of a denomination that operated much like any business. Today my philosophy on ministry has completely changed and retirement will come when I sleep in the grave.
It saddens me to see one who once gave testimony to following the Lord, come to a conclusion that since Jesus has yet to return that there is no hope. The Apostle Paul reminds us that confidence in Jesus’ return is an attitude of the saved. In 2 Timothy 4:8 he states, “the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award…to all who have longed for his appearing” (NIV).
Let none of us feel despair that our Lord has not yet returned, though we age and approach death in this life. Salvation is a reward for those “who have longed for his appearing” and Romans 13:11 reminds us “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”
Of course, a delay in the return of the Lord means opportunity for more to be saved and for me to be about the business God has given me.