Last week I celebrated my 57th birthday. When I was in my early 50s, I remember having a conversation with a medical doctor that went something like this: He said, “Welcome to your 50s. There are three surprises coming your way. You will receive an invitation to join the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). You will have a joint go out — hip, shoulder, knee, something will go — so get ready for it. And you will have your first colonoscopy. I can imagine better ways to celebrate a new decade than with the news of those three realities.
Aging is a normal part of the human experience and there is much we can learn from those who are a few years ahead of us. Here are five lessons I have observed from others who are aging with grace.
1. Keep learning: After becoming executive director-treasurer of the KBC, I reached out to one of my predecessors, Dr. Bill Mackey, to hear any advice he might have for me. What I remember from that call was not any particular advice he offered but instead what I observed about Dr. Mackey. He is a lifelong learner. Bro. Bill had discovered the discipline of biblical counseling after retirement. He is continuing to grow in this area of ministry and is using it in service to others. To age well we must continue learning and growing.
2. Stay active: A ministry friend of mine from outside Kentucky is Dr. Don McCutcheon. Don has spent much of his life pastoring and serving on two state conventions in evangelism leadership. One thing I notice about Bro. Don is that he continues to exercise regularly as the years keep coming. Bro. Don hopes to continue ministering as long as Jesus gives him life. To do so will require staying active. Aging well requires each of us to stay as active as we can.
3. Embrace limitations: Pete Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, spoke recently about interviewing leaders who were one or two decades older than himself. Some of the best aging advice he received was to embrace the limitations of aging. There will come a time when many of us will no longer be able to do the job we have enjoyed, drive a car for ourselves, or even live in the home we love. Scazzero was told that rather than fight these limitations, he should learn to embrace them. It makes sense that these limitations will come, and we should prepare for them to come.
4. Enjoy life: One of my favorite Kentucky Baptist leaders is retired pastor Kent Workman. Bro. Kent served well in Kentucky in various capacities. One thing I love most about him is that he seems to enjoy life. Retiring from vocational ministry feels frightening to many of us. I witnessed Bro. Kent embrace retirement and find new ways to serve Jesus and his family in his retirement season. We must find ways to enjoy life regardless of which season of life we are in.
5. Invest in others: Dr. Rick Lance is the executive director-treasurer for Alabama Baptists. Dr. Lance has been a source of wise counsel for me since I have been in my current position. One thing I notice in the life of Dr. Lance, who is a few years my senior, is that he intentionally invests in other leaders. Bro. Rick is sharing his vast wealth of knowledge by pouring into the lives of other leaders.
My fifties have been my favorite decade so far. As I get a little closer to the next decade of life and ministry, I can only hope and pray to serve as well as the leaders mentioned above. What have you learned about aging from observing others?