getting old

30 Words In 30 Days: AGE

This piece is a part of the series 30 Words In 30 Days


Aging is the one thing we can’t control. Every single year on the exact same day, whether we want it or not, we officially get older and lose an age that’ll never return to us. You will never again be 10 or 16 or 21. Those years are gone forever. And if they’re not gone for you yet, enjoy them. They only last 365 days. 366, if you’re lucky.

Just last week a friend asked me if I ever imagine what it’d be like to go back to when I was younger, knowing what I know now, and doing it all over again. Of course I do. My guess is that you do too, at least from time to time. Yet we all know this is a futile endeavor. We can’t go back and do things over. We get one shot and one shot only at each day. This is the great burden of caring for our fragile and precious minutes and hours with utmost respect and appreciation. But I’ve come to believe that this is also one of God’s most amazing gifts. It is the gift of holiness covering each of our moments – the good, the bad, the mundane. The Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminds us, There are no two hours alike. Every hour is unique and the only one given at the moment, exclusive and endlessly precious. 

The average life expectancy in the U.S. is just over 78 years. This amounts to about 28,500 days. I’ve already lived 12,783 of those days, meaning that I’m closing in on the halfway point, assuming I make it to the expected age. And not a single day has been quite like any of the others. Each one, unique and subtly spectacular. Some days have been full of boundless joy. But like you, I’ve had many days full of sadness and pain. And each one has been covered in holiness, set apart by God to be unlike any other day in human history, truly once-in-a-lifetime, teaching me and shaping me.

If you’ve never heard Sleeping At Last’s song Uneven Odds, go listen to it now and thank me later. The song tells a story of loss and pain and the stark reality that there’s no respite from the relentless flow of time’s often treacherous waters. These waters can be frighteningly dark, seemingly without rhyme or reason. And yet, even in the darkness comes forth a gift. The gift of light.

As the years move on these questions take shape
Are you getting stronger or is time shifting weight?
No one expects you to understand
Just to live what little life your mended heart can

Maybe your light is the seed
And the darkness the dirt
In spite of the uneven odds
Beauty lifts from the earth
From the earth

You’re much too young now
So I write these words down,
“Darkness exists to make light truly count.”

Time passes through us at the same dogged and determined pace it’s been keeping up since the beginning of…well…time. As you well know, it brings with it many troubles and hardships. And in those moments, from our deepest and most desperate places, we will want nothing more than for time to stop, to give us a breather, to let us sit a while to rest before moving on. But rest will not come. Re-do’s will not be handed out. Our tickets of regret cannot be redeemed for added time. What we get is what we get. And what we get is often darkness and dirt. But may we remember today, in this very moment, this exclusive and endlessly precious moment, that darkness exists to make light truly count. 


Another candle on the cake

Tomorrow’s my birthday, so it’s time to put another candle on the cake.  The cake is starting to run out of room.  Thirty-two candles seems to be a bit much.  The aesthetics are off with so many.  Maybe 32 cupcakes with one candle each would be better.  But then again, that’s a lot of cupcakes.

I still vaguely remember when my birthday was something to look forward to, a sign of progress, another step toward that ever elusive driver’s license.  Then, it was another step toward being legal, purchasing alcohol, renting a car, and so on.  Now?  No idea.  Is there anything one can do at 32 that one couldn’t do at 31?  Probably not.

My wife enjoys plucking white hairs from my head.  This has been happening more frequently the past few months.  I go to a chiropractor every Monday morning.  When I miss an appointment, I walk at an elderly pace for a while.  In college I felt most alive between 10pm-2am.  These days I’m dosing off on the couch by about 8:30.

Most people older than me either shake their heads in knowing contempt, or chuckle with an “oh how little you know” smirk when I mention my frustration with aging.  Most people younger than me just laugh and confirm that I am quickly and swiftly closing in on senior citizenship.  Either way, all of us, young and old, are marching toward the grave, taking step after step in the same direction every moment of every day.  But it’s not as hopeless as it sounds.  Aging isn’t so bad.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17: “…do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

In some ways, every day is a birthday.  Every morning we awake and are born into the newness of what lies ahead.  No matter how redundant, trite, or mundane your life may feel, each breath you breathe is new and different and a gift.  And though we are getting older, wasting away, new life awaits.  I don’t just mean at some point in your future, on the other side of death.  New life awaits in each moment, as your old life dies.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  Every moment lived is a moment emptied out from our present and lodged into our past.  But that empty void is filled with something better, something more eternal, unconfined by the boundaries of time.  We are filled with the unending life only God can offer.  So maybe we ought to embrace aging.  It’s the road by which we journey toward the eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

But then again, I’m only 32.  What do I know…