Oh my heavens. ... It was one of those big birthdays just a couple of days ago.
You know, the birthdays where you add another decade onto your life calculation
I have always done well with birthdays, never being too concerned about the advancing years (as they say, it is much better than the only other option).
However, this one has caught my attention.
Maybe it's because I had the chance to hear Fr. Richard Rohr a few months ago when he was part of the Christ Church's "Faith and Courage Series," and maybe it's because I immediately read his book "Falling Upward." He has a wonderful way of describing the issues of the two "halves" of life.
The first half is that of our childhood, adolescence and early adulthood to midlife years.
By the way, like most people my age, I still describe myself as "middle age" and am delighted that this description can last for years and years and years.
In life's first half, we are concerned with "making it," accomplishment, control, figuring out the rules and our identity.
Rohr writes this about that first half, "We invariably prefer the universal synthesis, the answer that settles all the dust and resolves every question -- even when it is not entirely true -- over the mercy and grace of God."
The second half is different. We can be more comfortable with change and with being stretched.
We know that we don't have all the answers (even clergy). We have the joy of looking for our true self and being honest about the suffering that is part of life. We can focus on the soul and its nurture and growth. We can operate, first and foremost, out of the mercy and grace of God.
Now, it is possible to think dichotomously about these two halves, posing one against the other.
But that is not what Rohr has in mind. He knows that we need to accomplish things throughout our lives and that we can also let up on ourselves and tend to our inner selves in our early years as much as in our later ones.
But back to the birthday boy for a minute. ... My life is different from that of my children.
They are young adults establishing their lives, careers and lifelong relationships. I am in a different place. These decades of life, vocation and relationship have brought perspective and peace.
I am deeply thankful for all the people who have shaped me to be who I am, the depth of love and relationship I have known and the overarching gifts and grace of a loving and generous God.
Oh, I am still "in the game" to be sure. I have a lot of things I hope to do over the next decade that embody vigor, growth and vision in my life and my work.
I love my ministry, my family, my community and my friends and go into the future fully aware of and thankful for those gifts and possibilities.
But today I am particularly aware of and thankful for my soul.
It is something that abides with strength and endurance.
I hope to find out more about my true and inner self during these years between my next several birthdays, and I hope to be more deeply rooted in the God who loves me.
In the Scriptures, there is a lot of reflection on maturity and growing into the full stature of God's love for us.
In Paul's first letter to the ancient church in Corinth, he says that throughout much of our lives we see things dimly and in a foggy way, but that one day we will see things clearly and gloriously as we grow into the love that God has for us.
Now, that's what I want to do.
The birthday prayer from my tradition still applies to me and to you on your next birthday -- "O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor on your servant who begins another year. Grant that he/she may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen his/her trust in your goodness all the days of his/her life.