“Don’t get old.”
That’s what all the old timers say, isn’t it? “Don’t get old.” If you get old, you’ll lose your memory, you’ll suffer from arthritis. The world will move too fast for you. Don’t get old, they warn, and they should know.
While I’m not looking forward too (or even anticipating) suffering most of the ailments that come with aging, I must say, getting old ain’t what it used to be.
My father still works 50-60 hours a week in a career he loves, even though he is several years beyond the standard retirement age of 65. He’s a doctor. Delivering babies and performing surgery requires some physical strength and dexterity, but it’s not like he’s digging ditches–this is largely mental work, and he’s holding up pretty well. If anything, he’s just getting wiser and gaining more experience as the years go on. Eventually, he won’t feel like waking up in the middle of the night or working 6-7 days a week, but he will almost certainly be in his 70s by then. For now, he’s offering more expertise and demanding higher fees than at any point in his career, and still has his wits about him to enjoy it.
Paul Martin was the Interim Pastor at Zion Hill Baptist Church right before they called me to be their next regular pastor. He had 40+ years in ministry and education behind him. A septuagenarian, it seemed like serving as interim was his way of doing this congregation a favor before he marched off into the sunset of retirement with his beautiful wife. Then, about the same time the church elected me, he was selected to serve as president of the American Baptist Seminary of the West at Berkeley. In many ways, running a seminary is a step up from pastoring a church–this opportunity is the capstone of his career. Not bad for an old guy.
Or consider Walter Massey, who was president of Morehouse College while I was there. Before serving at Morehouse, he was president of the National Science Foundation, Provost of the entire University of California school system, and a noted physicist. He retired from Morehouse, I thought, because he was getting old. He got his bachelor’s degree in 1958–you do the math. Yet, when the economy tanked and all kinds of heads began to roll in the financial sector, who do they choose to be the next Chairman of the Board at Bank of America? Walter Massey. We all know Morehouse is the cat’s meow, but this is B of frickin’ A! In his 70s, no less.
I can wait to get old. Imagine how many Facebook friends and Twitter followers I’ll have by then! How accomplished I’ll be at the craft of preaching. How much money I’ll have saved up. What dignitaries will be in my Rolodex. This is my 284th blog post in a year and half. How many will there be in 40 years? Job offers that I can’t even fathom now will be falling in my lap. Sure nothing is guaranteed–I could die tomorrow. But presuming a normal life, I’ll be in a good place by 70. And if 70 today is like 60 was 40 years ago, maybe in 40 years 80 will be what 70 is today. I’ll be working until I’m 80!
Again, I’m not talking about physical labor. The 3 men mentioned above all have earned doctorate degrees–so that’s going to have to be part of the equation. But, assuming I get me one of those, I’ll be set to keep working and keep moving up the ladder for more years than any of us expect. Not just so that I can keep making money, though I’ll take it. As long as I can walk, talk, and write, I know I’m supposed to be sharing the Good News, and I will.