Last Saturday was my 50th birthday. I was born right down the road in Hendersonville, NC, on a very cold day in October of 1962. It was right in the middle of the CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS. It was also two weeks and a day after the release of the BEATLES' FIRST RECORD.
I wasn't feeling great about turning 50. 30 I was actually happy about. I was fairly new in the ministry, and I was tired of people telling me I looked too young to be a pastor.
40 wasn't so bad, either. I was still in the prime of life. I still had two young kids at home. I could assume that my life was still less than half over--that I still had more days ahead of me than behind me.
But you can't say that when you're 50.
It's not that I'm afraid of dying. It's that I'm afraid of not accomplishing everything. There's so much more I want to do: Teach pastors overseas. Mentor young people out of poverty. Dig more wells in poor nations. Make disciples who make disciples who make disciples. Tutor kids in public schools. Feed thousands of hungry people. Start more churches, especially in unreached areas of the world. Earn a PhD. Teach at a college or seminary. Become a church consultant. Become a licensed counselor. Help the United Methodist Church become viable again. And lead Covenant Community to become a strong, Christ-centered church that will continue to grow no matter who the pastor is.
Once you reach the half-century mark, you realize that most of that stuff is not gonna happen.
So I wasn't that crazy about reaching this milestone. That is, until last Saturday.
That was the day a small group gathered in a private dining room in Winston-Salem, NC to celebrate my birthday. I looked around the table and saw my two kids, all grown up and mature: my son married and in grad school; my daughter a sophomore in college. I saw my dad, who's still with us and still sharp at 85 years old. I saw my mom, my mother-in-law, and my sister and her family (my brother lives far away and couldn't make it). And I saw several couples and their children who have become so close to us over the years that they might as well be family.
And as I looked around, I realized: I've been blessed. Way more than I deserve.
And then the stories began. Lorie asked everyone who came to share their favorite "Claude story." I laughed until I cried. My son David showed a video in which he imitated me and his wife Lauren imitated Lorie. They nailed us! Hilarious.
My sister Jacqueline led a game called, "Which is older?" She held up posters of different things and asked people to guess which was older--the thing she was holding up, or me. Turns out I'm younger than GI Joe and the Andy Griffith Show, but older than Zip Codes, the Etch-A-Sketch, and dirt.
It was a very satisfying day. Not just because it was all about me (I have to admit that I enjoy birthdays for that very reason, probably more than I should). But the satisfaction came from being surrounded by people who have journeyed through life with me for quite some time now. As I listened to their stories, I looked back and realized how good it's been. Even if I do have more years behind than ahead, they've been very good years.
And as I looked at their faces, I realized how good it is. I'm beyond fortunate to have such good friends and family in my life.
And as I loaded up my presents and headed back to Asheville, I realized how good it's going to be. Life's not about how much you accomplish before you die. It's about who you are and how you love. And I've got some great people to love.
Maybe turning 50's not so bad after all.