Age.  What a concept.  Yesterday (April 29) was my 52nd birthday, and I am contemplating what it means to be “middle-aged.”  Yes, I realize I have BEEN middle-aged for some time now, but for me 52 is about the mid-point of middle age.  Middle age seems to hit around forty, then give way to “older adult” around 62-63.  I keep telling myself that if I don’t jump out of any more airplanes, I might just make it to 80.  So, now, I figure I’m middle-aged middle-age.

A century ago, I would be old.  The average life expectancy for males in 1900 was a little over 48.  Today?  I am old to all those under thirty and young to all those over seventy.  I feel young (says he who spent the afternoon reading comic books/graphic novels) and yet I feel old (says he who broke his leg twice in the past four years and has a hard time getting up and crossing the room.Internally, I don’t feel any older now than I did in my twenties and thirties — I just feel more tired.  I was such an active crusader when I was younger, and I cannot quite conceive of the level of energy I expended in those busy bygone days.  And yet, I am on the go constantly, working hard to help as many people as I can strengthen and improve the ministries of our church.

But what am I going to do when I grow up?  My days of “fireman,” or “superhero” are past (most days), as well as “president” and “movie star.”  My vocation is professional meddler — counselor, consultant, trainer, teacher, writer.  I have an opinion about almost everything and this weird presumption that other people need to hear it.  I love ideas and playing with ideas and expanding ideas and working with others to think creatively.  I enjoy empowering others to do the things I could never do as well.  Working for the national church was an absolute dream come true.  I got to work with people around the globe to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  For over a decade, people found value in the writing and thinking I did about our United Methodist Church.

Today, I am living in the wondrous laboratory of the Wisconsin Annual Conference — a single connectional community where I can focus and test over time the ideas and concepts I have taught others.  This is a “put up or shut up” challenge — moving from the conceptual to the practical.  I actually have to practice what I preach (what a concept).  I can envision happily finishing out my pre-retirement ministry working and serving the wonderful people of the Wisconsin Conference.  I find deep satisfaction (and occasional bona fide joy) in the work I am doing here.

And I am a writer.  I make no claim to be a good writer.  I have no delusions about being a profound writer.  I am a prolific writer, but quantity has virtually no relationship to quality.  I simply love words, ideas, critical thinking and dialogue.  Writing allows me to put out there what I think, and to engage in conversation with people of all worldviews and opinions.  I’ve published thirteen books, well over 200 articles, over 300 blog posts, written curriculum and church guidelines, movie and book reviews, and even produced a couple videos.  My book writing seems to have dried up, but my blogging has given me a whole new audience — global, ecumenical, and eclectic — and I can’t quite conceive of NOT writing it.  I assume I will write even long after I retire from “active” service.

So, what I am today is pretty much who I will be in the future — and that’s just fine.  Who I am at 52 isn’t a half-bad guy (at least, he could be a lot worse).  What I truly want to be when I grow up is “better.”  I would like to be a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better leader, a better teacher, and a better friend.  What’s great about wanting to be better is how much potential and possibility there is to improve.  And, hey, I’m only 52 — I have plenty of time to work on it.

Categories: Personal Reflection

8 replies

  1. I am constantly amazed that nearly everyone in our culture is fascinated with issues of age. Is this a vocation or what? I have recently wondered if all this age business has something to do with selling products to the “proper” age cohort and that age idolatry has more to do with the economy than it does anything else. Or not.

  2. It seems to me that you have hit the age thing squarely. Age is after all nothing more than a state of mind. I am still wondering what I will be when I grow up. To me being grown up means you have stopped learning and I intend to never stop learning.

    Keep writing, we will keep reading. Happy early birthday for next year!

  3. Happy Belated Birthday!
    Thanks for your excellent devotional message at the Wisconsin Junior Convo on Saturday. I was sharing my thoughts about your blog with some colleagues on the ride to Convo Friday. But I wasn’t expecting to see you there. You connected well with the teens and a few of us older folks too. You could hardly go wrong with your Metalmen history. Anyway, it was well done!
    Enjoy 52!

  4. Another fine example of your “wordsmithing”. My take is that what you write is quality as well as quantity — many many many good things for us to ponder, study, and maybe even try out.

    I especially like the “living laboratory” metaphor about the Wisc. Annual Conference – let’s just be sure this isn’t a Dr Frankenstein or Dr Moreau lab (ha ha just kidding) – I for one am glad you are with “us”.
    Oh — and as to the “getting old/middle age” it’s just a number, and, since I am a few years ahead of you @ 54, take my advice and don’t ever grow up (no snarky Peter Pan comments please).

  5. congratulations brother. I love your stuff even when I don’t agree with you-which isn’t very often. Keep doing what you do. we need you.

  6. Happy Days-After-Your-Birthday, Dan! And may you stay with us in the Wisconsin Conference for a very long time!

    BTW I just recently crossed into 63, and I don’t think that should be “older adult”. . . .

    • One of the great things about aging is that “older” adult keeps moving away. No matter what age one attains, there is always “older.” I promise to keep adjusting upward.

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