By Mark A. Taylor
Let me tell you about my new best friend, Bob. Bob’s the guy from the other end of the office who paused last week beside my cubicle, festooned with “Happy Birthday” banners and a big, red “65” in the middle of the display. Bob said, “Hey, wait a minute!”
“This isn’t real, right? This is a joke, right?” He was completely sincere. This fine man couldn’t believe I was celebrating the welcome-to-Medicare birthday.
I’m not sure his reaction is due principally to the fact that he doesn’t wear glasses and he probably needs them, or he’s too young to need glasses and he’s put most 65 year olds in a category quite separate from his own.
In any case, I shook his hand, accepted the compliment, and offered to jog up and down the stairs with him. You’re only as old as you feel, right?
Not long afterward I was completing an online survey, and when it got to the demographics section, I realized I now belong beside a new checkbox: 65-74. Just days ago I could have checked 59-64. It’s beginning to dawn on me that, no matter how I feel, I really have opened a new chapter.
I hadn’t been dreading this birthday. I love birthdays! I love the cake and the special meals (yes, several of them) and the gifts. (The kids always ask me what I want, and I never have any ideas. But I always love their ideas!) And the attention. There, I’ve confessed it. I like the attention. Especially on Facebook.
I’ve said for years that birthdays are the best reason to be on Facebook. I posted my wife’s greeting on the morning I turned 65 (“Happy birthday, Senior Citizen!”), my wife compensated later by saying nice things about me in her post, my daughter posted a family picture beside her greeting, and Facebook prompts reminded my “friends” that this was my Big Day. All of that stimulated scores of friendly greetings.
I liked every one of them, but my turn to pause came at the greetings from two or three who included compliments both heartfelt and glowing. Frankly, I didn’t recognize the person they were describing. This is not false humility; I know me better than they do. What am I to do with a reputation that doesn’t match my view of myself?
Maybe my experience is not unique. Maybe many of us see negatives in ourselves not readily acknowledged by others. Maybe most of us are a mixture of the holy and the hidden. But hopefully all of us have taken up the quest to “work out” our “salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12), continuing to search for and ferret out the flaws that keep us from being all God wants us to be.
I’m encouraged by the vision Paul gave the Colossians: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1:27). Hopefully good things people see in me bubbled up from the inside because Jesus is there. But I know I need to make more room for him.
Maybe the best part of my birthday this year was the challenge to live up to the impressions of me held by some who know me. If I can truly be the guy they say I am, that would be a gift you can’t wrap in ribbons and colored paper.
And it’s never too late to keep at it. Pity the person who’s given up on himself, who just caves in to his besetting temptation or unfortunate character traits. There’s always room for improvement, for a better relationship with God—and others. Spiritual growth doesn’t stop when physical growth has ended.
Even when you’re as old as I am.