“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John 3:30
The day started off like this. Tee and I both rose early, donned some warm sweats and ventured out into the frosty air for a three-mile jog, after which I took a quick shower, got dressed and rushed off to the doctor’s office for my routine semi-annual checkup. If that sounds like some sort of healthy lifestyle obsession, I assure you it’s not. Instead, it was a premeditated act of pure defiance; for this occurred this past Thursday which, you see, was my seventieth birthday, and going for a run followed by a medical exam was my way of refusing to accept the fact that demographically I am now counted among the elderly.
The intention of my actions was to make a statement, that I am not ready to throw in the towel, and absolutely refuse to do so. I’m not done yet. I still have responsibilities and work to do. Or as Robert Frost expressed so well in those familiar lines from his poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, “The woods are lovely, dark and deep, But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
But I do have to admit that turning seventy has caused me to be a bit more introspective than normal, and even a little anxious; for as much as I may want to defy being counted among the elderly, reality is that the time I have left to fulfill my responsibilities and complete my life’s work is limited. If I want to finish well, I must be about it with vigor and determination. But what do I need to do different, and where do I start?
So, as much as I may have felt a bit of anxiety when I awoke last Thursday, I also experienced this strange sense of freedom. That freedom came from realizing I no longer have to prove myself, that my responsibilities will be fulfilled, and my life’s work completed simply by being me. But that reality didn’t come about because I’ve reached a certain age, it’s always been true, I just never allowed myself to believe it.
Now, as I look upon my children, and especially my grandchildren, clients, friends, the upcoming generations, though I continue to work with vigor and determination, I must begin to decrease in order that they can increase. If I can do that effectively in my – hopefully many – remaining years I will have fulfilled my responsibilities and completed my life’s work. I will have finished well. Thankful to be seventy and able to learn that.