My gray hair saved me 79 cents on a bagel sandwich the other day. Yay.
At 57 years old, I don’t yet qualify for the senior discount at Einstein’s Bagels. I thanked the 20-something cashier for including it without me asking for it. He responded with double-edged graciousness: “Well, I saw all the gray hair, figured you’d had a hard life, and thought you could use a break.” I was grateful – kinda.
I was smiling about that interaction a few days later, when I decided to do the math to see just how far I am into life. I have to admit that the results gave me pause. Since the lifespan of the average American male is 76 years, I am exactly three quarters of the way from the cradle to the grave.
How’s that for a sobering thought? I’ve already spent 75% of the time I can expect to live on this planet. My earthly past is three times larger than my earthly future. For a few minutes, those were the thoughts that filled my mind.
But then a picture from the sports world came to me – I’m headed into the fourth quarter. Any football fan knows how important that is. The game is won or lost in the fourth quarter. The first three quarters simply set the stage for the most important of the four. Many teams and fans hold up four fingers heading into that quarter, as a kind of rallying cry and reminder: “The fourth quarter is ours!” Teams that own the fourth quarter tend to win the game.
Inspired by that thought, I’ve made some commitments as I head into the fourth quarter of my life. If these apply to you, I invite you to consider them – feel free to embrace the ones you like. You are welcome to add others in the comment section if you wish.
- I will cultivate an intimate walk with God all the way to the finish line – whenever that comes. Jesus Christ has given me something priceless in bringing me to my Heavenly Father and filling me with the Holy Spirit. I will not allow that relationship to grow stale. I know it can happen, but I also know it can be avoided. The discipline of Sabbath rest has added new depth and joy to my walk, and I commend it to you if you are sensing the need for something fresh – you can browse this blog, or check out the summary posts here and here. There are plenty of ways to avoid the stifling danger of spiritual routine, and I encourage you to search until you find one that works for you.
- I will remain as physically active as my health allows. I know that we often slow down because our bodies break down. But in some cases, our bodies break down because we slow down. A commitment to healthy exercise can change the last quarter. I’m committed to staying as active as possible. The health benefits are obvious – and I’m a little embarrassed to admit how fun it is to pass people half my age on an uphill hike!
- I will invest time and energy in the next generation of church leadership. Studies show that the millennial generation is eager to get to know those of us who have a little more mileage on the odometer, and I have seen that to be true. They welcome the discipleship process that Paul describes in 2 Timothy 2:2. I am committed to spending regular, intentional time with at least three young leaders every year. It’s an investment in the future, and brings great joy in the present.
- I will stay out of the way of the next generation of church leadership. Every generation seems to want to impose its preferences on the next one. There are stands worth taking, but they are far fewer than we think. Most of the conflicts with younger generations revolve around personal preference, and I won’t die on those hills. These people need to lead in the way they see fit. I’m glad to help, but sometimes the best way to help is to make room for new leaders to serve in their own way. It’s what I wanted others to do for me 30 years ago, and many did. Now it’s my turn.
I’m excited about this next season. I have no idea what it will look like, but I’m eager to see what happens. After all, this is where the game is won or lost.
Hold those fingers high, team. The fourth quarter is ours!
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