Yesterday marked the end of my 59th journey around the sun. It was a good day, capping off with a pizza dinner with Jan, my sister, who shares the same birthday, and her family. I spent some time thinking about some of the things I've learned over the past almost six decades. These are not in any particular order, and I will probably think of others later, but here they are.
1. There is a God, and it's not you. One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn over the years is that there is a whole lot that I can not control. Thankfully, I trust that my Father in heaven loves me and is in control, even when I can't understand what is happening.
2. Love those around you, especially your family. They will be gone far too quickly.
3. Enjoy your children while they are growing up. Spend time with them and treasure each moment. The time will quickly come when they will be grown and not around as much. You will miss them.
4. Enjoy your grown children as fellow adults and friends. They may ask you for advice, they may not. Let them be who they are, and enjoy them.
5. Never, ever sit on a glass fishbowl. Trust me. You don't want to do this. It's not fun.
6. Hold most things loosely. Money, possessions, friends, ideas. As life changes, and changes you, so many things you think are important turn out to not be. Don't make it worse by grasping too tightly.
7. Be teachable. Too many folks go through their lives never exploring, never learning new things. Don't stop learning.
8. You are not always right. I am convinced that when we stand before God and wait for him to tell us how right some of our pet dogmas were, that he'll shake his head, chuckle, and tell us that we all had it wrong.
9. Love. Love your family. Love your friends, Love your neighbors. Love your enemies.
10. Love even when they don't accept your love. Loving is your calling. What they do is between them and God, and is not your responsibility. Love them anyway. Love as Jesus loved you. In case you forget, he gave his life for you.
11. Forgive and seek reconciliation. When Jesus told us to forgive and seek reconciliation over and over again, he probably meant that it was something important to do.
12. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. In other words, give yourself up for her. Period.
13. Don't be a lone ranger. We can't go it alone. It is scary, living in community with other folks. It will get messy. It is also the way to love and be loved, and to disciple one another as we learn to follow Jesus together. I'm not advocating a "be in church every time the doors are open" mentality, but rather doing life together with fellow followers of Jesus, sharing each others' lives, stories, joys, and sorrows.
14. Enjoy the world around you. Creation is not an evil place that we hope to escape some day. It is something that God said was good, and that will be restored one day. The people around you are not your enemies. They are folks in need of the gospel, just like we all are.
15. God's grace is truly amazing. God's grace is far wider and deeper than any of us can hope to imagine. I don't know how all that shakes out theologically (see lesson 8, above), but I do know that we can trust a loving God and his grace.
16. Live free. If you belong to Jesus, God has freed you from sin and guilt, and you can live as a free son rather than a slave. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. As a wise man once said, "Love God, and do as you please."
Some of these lessons have been harder to learn than others, but they have all been valuable. What has God taught you over your life?
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