“Getting old isn’t for sissies.”—Neal Smith


“That same night [Jacob] got up…and crossed the ford of the Jabbok…. [He] was left alone…” (Genesis 32:22,24).


The other night as we were sitting down to watch “Young Frankenstein” again, thanks to repeated showings on cable, I happened to notice that TV Guide listed the film as having been made in 1974. “That can’t be,” I said to Susan. “It seems like it just came out not long ago.” But I checked, and indeed, it was made 30 years ago. I had a similar feeling of surprise when I noted that “Blade Runner,” one of my favorite flicks, was released (in its original version) in 1982. 


Where did the time go? How is it that a film made when I was 22 still feels so current? The answer may be simple. I didn’t see it in 1974, but much, much later on TV. But I suspect that the number of pages I’ve turned on the calendar has something to do with my perception as well.


It’s truly an odd feeling to be fifty-something. At times I’m quite aware of my age, like when my knee creaks as I squat or when I put on my progressive lenses, then take them off and hold a page closer in an effort to see tiny print. But those common signs of maturity remind me that “this ain’t my first rodeo,” as they say, so I make decisions with confidence. Other days, I’m bewildered, like a little kid, as I confront new realities that come with age and with which I have little first-hand experience, like preparing eventually for my parents’ passing and knowing that, with my sister gone, I will be the one solely responsible for their care and the settling of their estate.


Way back in ‘82, I preached a sermon around the time of my birthday. It was entitled “On the Boundary” and was essentially a riff on one of Paul Tillich’s themes as well as an episode of the Jacob story. I had reached a major mile marker on my life journey—my 30th birthday—and it seemed appropriate to introduce the sermon with some of my reflections on getting older. For evidence that I had crossed the boundary into true adulthood, I reminded the congregation that I had bought a station wagon and had traded in my sporty car!


Those big decade markers are indeed liminal times writ large. But the truth is, every moment is a boundary. Between what was and what will be. Between the now and the not yet. Between what we cannot change and what still lies within our power to alter. We are constantly presented with a choice. We can live life looking backwards, wondering what happened to rob us of youth and relevance, fearful perhaps of tomorrow. Or we can go forward with courage, confident in the care of God and his promise “I am with you.”


Even when we cross the ultimate boundary.


© 2008 Tom Cheatham