If I’ve Learned Anything, It’s…

As I grow older, each approaching birthday makes me more contemplative and pragmatic.

Staring down the barrel of my mid-50s, I think about my family history. I’ve either out-lived my timeline, or perhaps have a few more decades to go. That’s pretty sobering, but it’s also motivating.

Preparing for a new life adventure, and a new slant on this calling to follow Jesus that I’ve accepted, has also impacted my thinking.

I never expected to be a somewhat newly-wed at this point in my life. I never thought that I would have lost both parents, all grandparents, and a wife by the time I hit the half-century mark.

Difficulty and turmoil, joy and wonder. They are dance partners in this crazy, temporary life we have. And so I share with you some simple things I’ve learned in hopes that a few of them will help you on the earth-bound portion of your journey.

1. Throw things away. Stop storing things. Do your kids a favor and divest yourself of so-called “keep-sakes.” Detach the memories from your things, keep the memory, and get rid of the stuff. Live light. If you’re storing it, its value is only in your heart. Keep the pictures, keep the love, lose the lingering mementos. Then, go a step further and get rid of stuff you simply never use, even if you believe you might use it some day. If you haven’t used it yet, some day will probably never come.

2. Live beyond regret. The things people regret most are missed opportunities to talk with loved ones and to express your affection for them. If you have difficulty expressing love, get over it and do it anyway. Sounds harsh, but it’s more important than you know right now. Send letters, texts and do better at expressing your heart to those who need to hear it. You’ll still want to talk with loved ones when they’re gone, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you did the right thing when they were here.

3. Touch them more. Give more hugs, more touches, more pats of affirmation. Give them to your spouse, to your kids, your friends, to the people at your church, even to your dog. I’m just assuming you know to keep this appropriate to the one you are touching. In this day and age, this is a dangerous thing to do. Do it the right way, and do it anyway.

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4. Keep learning. Read books. Read articles. Read stuff that you don’t agree with along with the stuff that suits your prerogatives. Take classes. Keep your brain sharp and expand your skillsets.

5. Change churches, change pastors. Your prayer and initiative can change your worship community and leaders for the better. If you don’t like something, you’re as much to blame because of failure to pray and to set a positive example. That’s another harsh statement, but then I’m telling you things I’ve learned. Pray it over and test it out with Jesus’ words. Then decide. When we walk away from people or pastors, we’re always taking our biggest problem with us. Ourselves. Allow God to renew you by the transformation of your mind, then be an agent of positive change, through prayer and example, through kindness and mercy, through grace and love just where you are now.

6. Just worship. I’m so sick of the culture wars when it comes to how we worship, I could puke. And that’s a sound biblical way of saying that (Revelations 3:16). Don’t listen to all the people barking about hymns vs. contemporary music. Tune out the arguments over screens vs. books or suits vs. jeans. Just worship. Don’t get lost in endless arguments, just worship. If you’re feeling cold and dry, don’t blame it on your church. Get fired up. Remember your first love. Stop being puke-worthy (again, Revelations 3:16).

7. Pay attention to your health, fat-so. OK, so maybe this one is mostly for me. I should have learned this by now. I promised myself I would do better. It’s time to put up or shut up.

8. Treasure your wife. Or, for some of you, your husband. Make sure there is absolutely no doubt in their mind that they are the most precious one in your world.

9. Write more. It’s something God has gifted me to do. But even if you’re not a writer, any effort you make to put your thoughts into words will be treasured by someone some day. I guarantee it.

10. Always have a vision for your future. Even if you believe you are at death’s door-step, pray for a healthy, fulfilling vision for what is to come. Stay motivated. Allow yourself to dream big dreams, and allow yourself to believe in a big God who does things that seem impossible to us.

I could go on, but ten items seems like a fitting number for now. I’m sure you have some of your own. I would encourage you to create your own lists and share them freely. Keep in mind, these are things I’ve learned, and some of them may rub you the wrong way. I’m OK with that. Do with them what you will. Don’t get upset by words. Figure out what made you angry, confront that in yourself, pray, and then ask Jesus to lead you to the right conclusion. That’s the greatest path to learning and discovery you’ll find.

One of the things I contemplated sharing was to not let people boss you around and make you feel worthless. But, I’m still working on that one. Stay tuned for my next birthday and see if I’ve learned that, yet.

Blessings to you, my friends!

Greg Fish