I missed middle age and I was unaware that it had come and gone. I guess it passed me by somewhere between diapers, dishes, and carpools. Now, no one misses the teen years. They greet you with pimples, hormones, and a brand-new know-it-all attitude. Then they depart, but not before leaving you with an increased height and a transformed body shape. Middle age is not as visible (except maybe for that mid-life bulge).
How did I discover that middle age passed me by? I was complaining to my baby sister, saying, “Julie, never choose to re-locate in your middle age.”
I was sure she would agree by saying, “By the time you are middle aged you want to settle into your nest, which hopefully is empty.” Instead, my sister — who is sixteen years my junior — said, “Ellen, you are not middle-aged.”
“I’m not?” I questioned.
She must have noticed the shocked look on my face, so she tried to explain. “Ellen, I’m middle-aged and two of your seven children are middle-aged, so you cannot be middle-aged.” She paused, then added “Ellen, think about it! You are almost sixty years old. You would have to live to be one hundred and twenty years old to be considered middle-aged.”
I was about to ask, “How do you know I won’t live to be one hundred and twenty years old?’’ but I was preoccupied with checking her math, which slowed down my response. I was not about to say, “You’re right!” Almost like a reflex the words, “No one told me!” popped out of my mouth.
I questioned, “If I’m not middle-aged, Julie than what am I.”
“Ellen, you are a senior.”
“I may be a senior, but I am a senior with a life!” I proclaimed. “Besides, age is just a number. You are only as old as you feel. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I am not getting older, I definitely am getting better.” These clichés flowed through my past-middle-aged mind, but I did not voice them. This wisdom is only understood by the mature of age, I thought, and Julie is only middle-aged.
My sister Julie and I had this interesting discussion over five years ago. I guess you could say that I don’t do math. The last five years have come and gone; actually, they have flown by like a bird heading south for the winter. A lot of life has been lived, and a lot of wisdom gained. I find in the journey of life you have to let your experiences help you determine the best path for you. It has been a time of discernment as to what my husband Deacon Patrick and I are being called to do for the rest of our lives.
We have slowly come to the conclusion that life is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Where are you in the race of your life? Have you only just begun, are you trudging along in the middle just keeping up your pace, or are you nearing the finish line of your existence? If you have ever prepared to for a race, especially if it is a marathon, you must build up your endurance. You must learn to pace yourself so that once begun, you don’t tire out before getting to the finish line. Every runner knows the goal is to finish what you began.
It is the same way in the race of life: You want to make it to the finish line. There is a difference, however, in the two races. When racing in a marathon you are competing against others. The race of life for a Christian is not a competition. You are running only against yourself. You are trying to eliminate sin and make room for more of Jesus. The goal is to be the best you can be!
So pace the race; don’t race the pace! Take time for the living water of the word of God, the sacraments, to seek wise counsel, and prayer to sustain you in the race. Without refreshment you will be running on empty. Pause and see how you are doing. Ask yourself these three questions:
- Where have I been?
- Where am I?
- Where am I going?
Take time for fellowship one with another. No one runs a race alone. Take time for you. Runners wear out, so know the warning signs, listen to your body, your mind, and to your soul.
That said, Deacon Patrick and I have been running the race to win. We have trotted side by side. Now in our senior years, we have asked ourselves those three questions. At ages 72 and 65 we see a turn in the path ahead, a bend in the road of life.
After much prayer, many tears, and wise counsel we have decided to retire. Many times I have come to Patrick and said, “You know why people our age retire? They are tired! R-E- T-I-R-E-D has the word tired built right in it. I wonder why we never saw it before.”
We are not retiring from life. We are not retiring from ministry. We are just retiring from the pace of life we are leading and now prudently choosing a lifestyle where we can live our lives in a healthy way. We are prayerfully discerning a pace of life that will help us reach the finish line together. We have sold our home in Evans, Georgia, and rejoice at God’s adventure ahead. Having not decided where we are going as yet, this seems like the most peaceful choice. We will go where God leads us and do what He calls us to do. We are still running the race to win. The race is just changing directions and pace. Who know, maybe we will be like a bird flying south for the winter.
Where are you on your race in life? Are you at the beginning, full of zest and zeal? Are you at the middle busily trudging along? Are you nearing the finish line of your existence? Has your get up and go got up and left? Did you also miss the tired in the word retired? Life is worth living, but living it age appropriately. Be full of life, whether you are 21 or 65. You are not dead yet. Live your life fully alive! Pause and ask yourself those three important questions. Then discover the answer while in prayer.
God has a mission for each of us to fulfill. God has a marathon race for you to run. The race is against you and for you. What has God called you to do? Take the time to seek His face, and then run with His grace. Run your race with all of your heart. God is counting on you to complete your mission.
Whatever you do, do not miss middle age. If you do, there is still hope you can re-tire as a senior while there is still life in you. Not to worry, there still is time to live out those clichés as a senior. Hopefully, this is the best time of your life, so enjoy! Use your senior life to go forth and make a difference in this world. Who knows, you may even live to be one hundred and twenty. In the meantime, spread your wisdom and experience. Smile with pride when you say, “Senior discount, please!”
Copyright 2018 Ellen Mongan