Not long ago, I arrived at a chronological milestone. My family surprised me with a gathering to celebrate the occasion. During the event, it seemed like I received as much attention and congratulations as someone who had just finished a marathon.
What did I do to deserve such attention?
That morning, I awoke to a new day much like any other. I did not make any effort to breathe, to open my eyes, or in short to be alive! Unlike some who may be critically ill, when their every breath is a struggle, when their waking moments may involve severe pain or even consist only of drifting in and out of consciousness, my existence – perhaps likewise for many of you – was largely effortless and uneventful. It all happened naturally, save for the fuss my family and friends made because it was my birthday. Not surprisingly, I felt it was unwarranted.
All this set me thinking – what is the appropriate way to celebrate a birthday, or more generally, a milestone in life?
Firstly, I had the joy of sharing my special day with family and friends dear to me. Conversely, I can think of nothing more desolate than being alone and lonely. Living in community and being in fellowship with others are an important part of our day-to-day existence, what more when commemorating an important day.
Secondly, although I did not spring up from bed that morning with joyful thankfulness, I did wonder if I was taking for granted the precious gift of life. I found myself trying to be mindful of being thankful and counting my blessings. An interesting side effect is that the more grateful we are, the more content we become.
I have been asked how it feels to turn 60. Some have asked if I noticed growing physically weaker or mentally slower. Honestly, I have not noticed either. How can it be that a day ago, one is in good physical condition, and the next, not?
Of course, there are those who deny their decline with age. I suspect, however, that there are more who mentally come to accept and even expect themselves to become and behave like elderly folk. They limit the physical challenges they undertake, make little effort in recalling facts, or even withdraw from social contact with others.
So, my third thought is not to allow myself to age more than I need to. I still have a responsibility to be a good steward of this body, to maintain and use it until the rightful Owner of this leased body recalls me home.
Fourthly, it hit home that I now have less time to prepare to meet the Lord. This thought spurs me to consider not only the tasks yet to be completed, but also how well-prepared I am to meet Him. It is not about making myself more acceptable or even deserving, but rather, whether I know what to expect.
Many of us live with the expectation that we will one day see our Maker, and fellowship with Him face to face. However, will I know Him well enough to enjoy this intimacy? My relationship with God feels very unbalanced. God knows me through and through, but there is still so much more for me to learn and experience of Him… and so little time left to do this.
Finally, the common thread running through all these thoughts is grace. By God’s grace I live; by His grace I have been blessed. And grace will see me to the final communion.
Benny Bong –
has been a family and marital therapist for more than 30 years, and is a certified work-life consultant. He was the first recipient of the AWARE Hero Award in 2011 and is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church.
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