By Phil Callaway
I have officially reached middle age: my age is showing around my middle. The thing about The Middle Ages is that if you have any brains left at all, you start to realize you’re running short on time to do things you vowed you’d do when you were twenty-four.
And so, one sunny Saturday, you find yourself behind a 16,000-hp ski boat being steered by a former high school friend named Bubba, trying to avoid fishing boats and beads of water that smack you in the eyes like buckshot.
Every few weeks I get together with five other middle-aged guys for something we call the Circle of Six, and lately I’ve noticed that some of us are engaging in activities we wouldn’t have dreamed of back when we had our minds.
For instance, one of the guys (I won’t name names, but Ron Nickel receives this guy’s credit card statements) bought a high-powered motorcycle, then sold it when he came within a whisker of crashing. Another—whose initials are Vance Neudorf—took up hang-gliding and limped to our meeting a few weeks ago, holding his lower back and making sounds like he was birthing triplets.
Sitting around the fire, we talked of things we intended to do when we were younger but haven’t, because we’ve been held back by time. Or loving wives. Or insurance policies.
“I’d like to cycle across the country,” said one. Everyone nodded.
“Garden with my wife,” said another. Everyone gasped.
One even confessed that he’d like to learn the ukulele and give concerts. Then came stories of parents who had grand plans for an adventuresome retirement, and who salted away money for travel only to discover that they’d run out of health once they got there; they’d run out of time.
I guess we spend our early years wishing time would hurry up, our middle years trying to find more of it, and our latter years wondering where in the world it went.
To avoid the avalanche of time, we: buy juicers, yogacize, nip, tuck, wear Spandex, medicate, diet, visit 4.5 million “anti-aging” websites, then try a diet that “really works.”
We are constantly trying to make up for lost time. We rush about as if we’re going to find it somewhere, hoping all the while that time is on our side. We get so stressed out we start drinking Maalox like it’s gravy. We wonder, What would it be like to slow down? And if we slow down, will we have a nervous breakdown?
“Teach us to number our days, so that we may be wise,” wrote the psalmist. And if we number them, we just may find that we don’t have enough time left for petty stuff like discussing someone else’s failures. We won’t have time for things that are really ugly and disgusting, including much of what’s on tabloids and television. We won’t have time to sit around comparing what can’t be taken to the next world. Things like bank accounts, titles, and temporary achievements.
We will discover that time is precious; that we should spend it brightening someone’s day, helping those less privileged, loving the forgotten, and gazing into the night sky. After all, no matter our age, we have less time than we think. Yesterday is a memory, tomorrow is an assumption, and this moment that we say we have … just passed.
I believe we are stewards of whatever God gives us, including the days we have left. Because of Christ, we are promised the riches of eternity where time will be extinct, but for now we are allowed the riches of today. Maybe I’ll sign up for those ukulele lessons, after all.
Phil Callaway’s new book is Family Squeeze. Visit him at www.laughagain.org