Today I celebrate my 60th birthday. Somehow that seems like a milestone worth pondering.
To begin with, I am happily surprised that I lived this long. On my little twig of the Pritchard family tree, our men generally don’t live a long time. My dad died when he was in his 50s, my uncle in his 40s, my grandfather when he was 70, and several others in their 50s and early 60s. The women live longer, and on my mother’s side both men and women seem to live into their 70s and 80s. But ever since my father died in 1974, I’ve been aware of my own mortality.
So I’m cheerful because I’m still alive. As my friend Terry remarked, “It beats the alternative.”
When you hit 60, you can’t kid yourself about still being young. 60 may be the new 50 but it’s not the new 30. Yesterday I got my hair cut and it seemed like there was a lot of gray falling to the floor. I know that I don’t see or hear as well as I did ten years ago, and it definitely takes longer to get up in the morning. So, no, I’m not young anymore.
I’m aware that I’m making the slow turn toward home. The finish line may be closer than I think, but even if it is many years away, I’m not rounding the first turn. That happened a long time ago. I’m happy and content about where I am in chronological terms. It is what it is. Blessed is the man who does not fight what he cannot change.
Being 60 means that I have something to pass along to those coming after me. That’s what my generation has to do. We’ve got to seek out the young people coming behind us and pass along the things we have learned. So I travel and teach and write and try to keep in mind that the future belongs to the young. Certainly it belongs much more to Josh and Leah and to Mark and Vanessa and to Nick than to me. I’ve got work to do, but I can see clearly that they are the rising future. And behind them come Knox and Eli. The future really belongs to those fine young boys who will grow up in a world much different than the one I knew.
Finally, I find myself very grateful to my sweetheart who will celebrate my birthday by traveling with me to New York for a conference that begins on Thursday. This is our life–packing and unpacking, going through security, hoping our bags make it, waiting for friendly faces on the other end, and dancing all the while.
I’m happy that Marlene has made the journey with me. We’ve been married more than twice as long as we were single. That’s a good sign for the future as we move forward together.
I come to my 60th birthday with many memories of God’s faithfulness over the years. At the moment we’re in good health, our family is not far away, and we have plenty to do each day. Plus we feel very loved by our friends who encourage us in so many ways.
Seven years ago this week we wrapped up our ministry in Oak Park. Little did we know all that God had in store for us. We can see now that God had bigger plans than we knew. Thank you to everyone who has followed our journey over the years, and thank you to the many new friends we’ve made along the way.
A friend wrote asking for prayer about a meeting he will soon attend. As I thought about how to encourage him, I remembered something I saw a few days ago. It comes from Great Britain during the hard days of World War II when the leaders would encourage their people with these words: “Stay calm and carry on.”
That sounds right to me. No matter what the future holds, I’m certain that God is already there, solving problems I don’t even know that I have yet. I’m glad for a big God with big grace. My plan is to stay calm and carry on. The Lord will take care of everything else.
“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end” (Psalm 48:14).
Ray Pritchard pastored in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Married to Marlene for 38 years, he enjoys being a husband, a father and a grandfather, riding his bike, and playing with Dudley and Gary, beloved basset hounds.