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On being sixty

May 2003 | by Kent Philpott

Actually, I’m sixty-one! In some ways I feel like I’m twenty-five, and now that I have cut down on some of my excesses, I can run like I did then.

Well, maybe not — but I have to try because I need to keep up with the young men who play on my baseball team, the San Quentin Prison Giants.

There are times when I feel much older than I am, though those days are thankfully rare. The days I do not relish are coming, however. Like the day when I cannot play catch with a baseball any more.

But I will, by God’s grace, continue what I really like to do until the end, or close to it.

Shrinking world

I’ve let go of some of the dreams and hopes I had when I was younger; many will never come to fruition. I would have loved to travel, own my own home, have a boat, spend more time fishing and gardening, give myself to study and writing, and so on — typical aspirations for a guy like me.

My dad is eighty-nine, in failing health. My mother died long ago. My brother had a throat cancer (though clear of it now), and some of my old friends from high school have serious ailments.

Some people around me — family, friends, associates, brothers and sisters in Christ — have died, and I can see that others are heading that way. My world is shrinking little by little.

The events of the world trouble me more than they used to. Stress has a greater effect on me than it once did. It seems that I experience one loss after another — loss of family members, loss of friends, and loss of certain dreams and hopes.

Many people in this situation succumb to despair and depression. Others become cynical and bitter, isolating themselves from their worlds. I see why in my younger years I perceived old folk to be rather irritable.

Vibrant Christians

But my two grandmothers were never bad-tempered. They did not even seem old. Both were vibrant Christians.

Up until their very last days, they had a mission — always seeking to serve the Lord in some way, if only in prayer (the ‘if only’ refers to quantity not quality).

My dad still hands out Christian literature to the people who live around him and tries to witness whenever he can. I want to be like them.

If I had never become a Christian, I would no doubt have thought the goal of my life was to be happy, healthy and wealthy.

And, like most who get confused about the purpose of living, I would probably have become bitter and cynical instead. Even if I had achieved some of the worldly fruits of living, they would self-destruct at some point.

Life-long job

But God in grace chose me, plucked me up out of the stream that flows to an awful hell, and gave me salvation along with a life-long job to do. These gifts are mine for ever.

I may not have realised all the dreams and hopes I had in my youthful idealism, but I have Jesus and his commands and his commissions.

By his grace, I will go forward with these, forgetting what lies behind, like those faithful saints who have gone before me.

In turn, I am ‘going before’ others — my children, my grandchildren, and all those who know me in some way. I therefore have a joyful task to carry out that will not be complete until my very last day.

More losses are coming, more dreams and hopes will dissolve, but ‘Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and for ever’ (Hebrews 13:8). I keep my eye on him. I keep running on course, and the finish line is a little nearer now than it was before.

The crowd is at the finish line; a trophy is being made ready. Every inch of the way is precious and I hope to give it my all.