I haven’t been all the way around the block. But I’ve been about halfway. Next year marks my fifty-third on the planet. You see things differently at fifty-three than you did at twenty-two or thirty-seven. That’s simply the way life is. When you’re younger, death is the furthest thing from your mind, as it should be. But when you’re not so young anymore, life’s saddle starts shifting underneath you a little. Again, that’s simply the way life is. But it leaves you stretched between your mortality and the breathless gift of being alive on this good earth.
So how do you then live? I’ll share the best advice I’ve found on this (and I’ve about heard it all). It comes from Frederick Buechner: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”
I used to believe those words were just for the young. But now I see them as imperative as we age, because the temptation is to either pretend you’re still nineteen, or become some kind of Eeyore-type character, moping around and waiting for the bitter end to come already. Neither requires faith, much less courage.
Beautiful things will happen, like watching my daughter graduate from high school and then set her sights high toward her future. Terrible things will happen, like a back injury that sidelined me for a year, unable to even do a pushup—an injury I sustained while acting as if I were nineteen.
Beautiful things will happen, like officiating as my parents renewed their vows in a golden wedding anniversary ceremony. Terrible things will happen, like the death of an old classmate taken far too soon, a lady I had a crush on when she was just a girl and I was just a boy. Hearing of her death gutted me with strange heartache.
Beautiful things will happen, like receiving a letter in the mail from a couple I helped years ago with a little premarital counseling, with a message that read, “Your words meant so much to us that we named our son after you. Just wanted you to know!” Terrible things will happen, like losing the joy of my salvation for a season, not knowing why or what to do about it. Beautiful things will happen, like being slowly wooed again by the Savior who has loved me longer than anyone else.
A man’s days are like grass; he blooms like a flower in a field, and then fades with the wind (Psalm 103:15–16). But one day, death will no longer exist; neither will grief, crying, and pain because the old order of things will pass away (Revelation 21:4). This is the deal. This is God’s world. The beautiful and the terrible. This is abundant life.
Don’t be afraid.
Written by John Blase