Today is my 61st birthday. My body and I will now be exploring the state of being called 61. I'm not sure what it will look like exactly, but I bet it will be both the same and different from the state of being called 60. I say so because I notice, more than when I was a younger man, changes in how my body and mind respond to living: changes in strength, agility, resilience and acuity. Some of it I do not mind at all; some of it I rather dislike.
For instance, while my passion for living remains unabated, my body tires more easily and it takes longer to repair from injury. Stress takes a larger toll and requires more time to release. While I remain fierce about what I care for most, it is harder to stay focused. I also hesitate slightly in activities I never gave a thought to previously. My mortality has become more of a reality in my thinking than before. And for some reason, I like the hoary eccentricity of many old guys, and notice fondly their weirdness.
So here I am at 61 smack dab in the middle of launching imagine/Northampton almost 21 months in. What's it like being this age and taking on such a difficult task?
Well, it remains the hardest Kingdom thing I have ever done. As I have mentioned in a blog earlier, I've started projects my entire life, including Klesis Ministries, and the Listening in Christ retreat ministry at the Center For Renewal in Simsbury, CT (with Tricia). Ministry is never easy I have found. The stresses and strains are formidable to say the least. Launching a church at this or any age takes resolute courage, deep faith, and stubborn trust. I suspect doing so will never become easy at this late stage of redemptive history.
I notice 21 months in that we still have a ton to learn about how to do this thing at all. The lofty ideas and expectations we tossed back and forth as a new team sitting comfortably in our living room in Simsbury have had the penetrating light of reality shined on them. Words are cheap and reality it turns out is remarkably costly. We have learned a great deal, would all agree we are still "wet behind the ears" at this mission. It keeps you humble and completely dependent on God - a benefit to be sure.
At 61, I am tethered to an abiding urgency to what we are doing. I have less time left than I did as a younger or even middle-aged man. Such a reality has become a huge factor for me. I have a persistent longing to see it all come about. I want so much to do this for my King, to leave a vibrant community of passionate, creative Jesus-followers here in Northampton at the end of my race. While we are a long way from there, my desire stays strong.
I notice too that my love especially for my amazing wife of 37, and for the folks on the team grows. I really appreciate the gifts they have, the sacrifices they have made and the wonder they are as people. I want to see them blessed by this endeavor. I want then to be rewarded richly for their faith and courage. I owe them my best efforts with doing my part. I do not want to fail Jesus or them. They are precious treasures.
Lastly, while sometimes I despair of succeeding - the sometimes province of many a church planter over the centuries - I will not give up unless I am taken out. While I'm not a young man, I still have the fire-heart of a young man. I am committed to this mission even if it costs me everything including my life. Pursuing and establishing the Kingdom as much as I'm enabled to do remains my prime directive in these autumn years of life.
To give my life to anything less would be to shamefully waste the time and effort of people who have come with us to do this in Northampton.
To give my life to anything less would be coast into the finish line of my race, a disgrace in my mind.
To give my life to anything less would be to miss a big part of what I was made for.
To give my life to anything less would be to squander the time I still have to finish the mission.
And besides all that, I just don't look good in lime green pants and white shoes!