Yesterday I Turned 55

Yesterday I Turned 55

A Story by Ruth Carter
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Just some personal musings

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Yesterday I turned 55.

That’s right. Fifty-five.

In nine years I’ll be 64. Remember the Paul McCartney song?

It struck me today like no other landmark age has hit me. I was practically oblivious to my 40th. My friend Donna sent me some confetti in the mail with a bunch of little 40s, but I didn’t get it until several days after my birthday. Since we tried not to dwell on age, I had forgotten it was my 40th! (It’s a number—I don’t do numbers well.) When I hit 50, it was with a kind of shrug. My parents took me out to eat, I think, and gave me a gift. I’m kind of vague. We’re just not a party kind of family. I didn’t think to celebrate 50 until Lynn, the younger of my two sisters, turned 50 two years later, and then I got all three of us together to do something special to commemorate our getting to the big five-oh.

Yesterday, on my birthday—my 55th birthday—I thought briefly, "Fifty-five saves lives", the slogan in the States to encourage people not to speed on the highway. I do make weird connections with numbers all the time. It was today that it hit me. I was sitting in church. Dad, who will be 79 at the end of the month, was preaching. He’s the part-time pastor of a small—very small—rural congregation. That was part of it—his being there behind that pulpit. He began his career as a pastor when he was 70 years old. Today he was preaching about the coming of the Holy Spirit. The bible, he remarked, is full of stories of how God guided people in their lives. Sometimes He used dreams and visions. Sometimes He sent an angel. Sometimes He spoke through other people. Once He even spoke through a donkey! Dad shared an example in his own life. He was at a crossroads in his life when he was needing to make some decisions regarding his future occupation. It was a Sunday morning, and he felt God was speaking to him through a specific passage of scripture. He said nothing of this to anyone. While he felt his interpretation of the verse was quite clear, he asked God to give him some kind of outside confirmation. That morning in church, the pastor unexpectedly asked a visiting missionary to share briefly about his work in the Netherlands. This man, a stranger, stood up, and in about four minutes, he went through every point in the scripture that Dad had been challenged by. Whoa! He thought, that’s pretty conclusive. But, like Gideon, he asked God for one more test. This time, he prayed, let Phil give him the confirmation. Phil Philips, a man of prayer and deep faith, was Dad’s spiritual mentor at the time. Later that day, just before the evening service, Phil uncharacteristically left his wife and daughter as they entered the sanctuary, crossed the length of the large foyer to Dad, and said, "Roy, you have a question for me." Dad laughed as he concluded the anecdote, "Not anymore," he said. He knew then, without any doubt, that God was indeed speaking to him.

I’ve heard this story many times. But it moved me today in a different kind of way. You see, some of the decisions Dad was struggling with had to do with his job. Should he continue in his job until he was 65 or should he take advantage of the early retirement package his company was offering? By retiring early, he could put much more of his time into focused, purposeful ministry in the Name of the Lord. This would mean quite a drop in income, and it would mean stepping out in faith. His company, not wanting to lose him, complicated matters by offering him a promotion and substantial raise in salary, but by this time he was confident that he was supposed to move on. He took the retirement and the very next day he was working full time in the church as a volunteer administrator. He was 55.

Yesterday I turned 55.

For many years now, I’ve been kind of floating along, living with my parents and just kind of letting things happen. Thirty years ago (30!), when I joined Covenant Players, I had a strong sense of calling. For 17 years, I toured with a small drama group, living out of a suitcase, earning an income that put me well below the poverty line, working hard, often times wondering if we could afford the next meal, and yet, even when things were particularly difficult, having an underlying confidence that God was with me, taking care of me, watching over me. Oh, sometimes I struggled with the calling, sometimes I wondered if Covenant Players was the right place for me, but I knew—most of the time—that I could count on God.

After I left the Players, I wondered what I should do next. I prepared and sent out dozens of résumés in my hunt for another job, another calling. I was looking for something "important", something with "substance", something that I could claim with pride. Something that would show people—most particularly, my former boss—that I was a person of talent, intelligence and value.

I never found that job, and I never made much money. I thought, I can write. I’ll write a novel. Maybe that can be my career, my ministry. So I wrote, and while I wrote quite a bit, and I must say, some of it seemed awfully good, I didn’t have discipline or that stubborn drive that writers really need to have. I lived with my parents—with no job or money, I had to. I eventually found a job as an "administrative assistant" at our church. I mostly worked on the computer. This was part time, so when a job at a Christian bookstore became available, I took it. I liked the variety these two jobs gave me. The church job used my creative skills quite a bit, and the bookstore brought me close contact with people. It also got me away from the computer and on my feet, which, believe me, was very important to my health and fitness. The church job lasted four or five years, then I went through a period of about four years when the store was my only job. Now I’m working for another church on those days I’m not at the store.

I’m still living with my dad. The above-mentioned jobs don’t bring in enough money for me to live by myself. I find myself worrying a lot about the future. When I was with the Players, I made a lot less money, and worried less about the future. After buying pantyhose and toothpaste, there just wasn’t any money for retirement. I thought, why do I need to be saving for retirement? God is more faithful than a pension. Besides, I’m a baby boomer. By the time I retire, there will be so many people in my position that it’ll be a real strain on the system. Aren’t I better off putting my trust in God than in a possibly unreliable pension? So I struggle with the conflicts of faith, doubt and presumption. Faith, I think, is trusting that God is who He says He is, and that when He says He cares for us, He does. Doubt is when I wonder about the very existence of God and, if He does indeed exist, how can He possibly care in a personal way about me? After all, I’m only a very tiny speck on the canvas of the space-time continuum! Presumption is sitting back and just expecting God to do exactly what I think He should do. Faith is an active, lively relationship with God where I look to Him for guidance and know that He is with me as I set my hands to doing what He has led me to do. Faith is knowing that when I am living in the centre of God’s will, He will keep me. It is having the confidence that His way is better than the limited answers I myself might come up with. Presumption is a lazy cop-out, if I can be forgiven for using an archaic idiom.

Neither of my jobs provides for a pension, beyond what I contribute to the Canada Pension Plan. I have not made any effort to put aside investments for retirement. Is this faith that God will look after me when I can no longer earn a living? Or is it presumption? I worry. I wonder what will happen when Dad dies. Where will I live? How will I manage? Will I ever write that block-bustin’ novel that will take care of all those worries? When I hear people talking about saving for retirement, I hear them emphasize that we’ve gotta start right away. I didn’t start saving when I was 20 or 30 when the savings would have had a chance to accumulate and earn the interest they would need to beat inflation. Now it’s too late. Isn’t it? No wonder I fantasize winning a lottery in which I’ve never bought a ticket!

Yesterday I turned 55.

At 55, Dad was starting a new career and life in ministry. He was actively seeking God’s direction and guidance as he embarked on an adventure he is still embracing today. It’s been several years since I really pondered what direction God wants me to take, what my calling in life should be. Am I just skating along where it’s safe and easy? Am I lazy and uninspired? Fifty-five was a turning point for Dad. Will it be a turning point for me?

Yesterday I turned 55.

 

I'm adding this bit a full month later. It occured to me I should double check with my dad about the "facts o"f his story. For one thing, I had the age wrong. He was 57 when he retired.  That changed the whole import of 55 for me, but it sure didn't stop my thinking along these lines. I guess it means I have two years to get my act together!

For another, when Dad took early retirement, he had to continue working for about a year because he agreed to help find and train somebody who could take over his job, which was a highly skilled position. In that year, he was given three substantial raises, unheard of for a person already slated for retirement! He was walking away from a financially rewarding position into something unknown. Then, when he took the administrative position at his church, he was offered a salary that matched his income from his previous job, and he refused it, preferring instead, to volunteer and live on his pension, to see what the Lord had for him.

Every stage of his adventure challenges me to look beyond what I'm doing now and wonder -- what more does God have for me? And what do I need to be doing now to embrace that adventure?

© 2009 Ruth Carter


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Featured Review

hello,
...this certainly spoke to me. I am 56... I live with my parents at this time. I had graduated (a late bloomer, I suppose) from college at fifty. I was surrounded by twenty year olds, and I wasnt about to think about how old I was. I just seemed to be in an ageless place, a man working, doing what I wanted to do. Then, like you it really hit me this last year of my life... realizing some things. I am aware of eternity. I am aware of the rocks in rivers, the nature of wind and how wind moves through the empty winter trees, I am determined now to "know" God. To stop thinking about linear aspects of life, time, age, how wrinkled my hands are becoming...

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed reading your story. I think it has been something uplifting to me,. knowing that another person has written about something close to my life.
So, thank you for writing this. I enjoyed it greatly. Yours raining,.... keith martell

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.




Reviews

hello,
...this certainly spoke to me. I am 56... I live with my parents at this time. I had graduated (a late bloomer, I suppose) from college at fifty. I was surrounded by twenty year olds, and I wasnt about to think about how old I was. I just seemed to be in an ageless place, a man working, doing what I wanted to do. Then, like you it really hit me this last year of my life... realizing some things. I am aware of eternity. I am aware of the rocks in rivers, the nature of wind and how wind moves through the empty winter trees, I am determined now to "know" God. To stop thinking about linear aspects of life, time, age, how wrinkled my hands are becoming...

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed reading your story. I think it has been something uplifting to me,. knowing that another person has written about something close to my life.
So, thank you for writing this. I enjoyed it greatly. Yours raining,.... keith martell

Posted 11 Years Ago


1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


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Added on March 2, 2009
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Author

Ruth Carter
Ruth Carter

Cottage Country, Ontario, Canada



About
Always a storyteller, whether it's writing, singing or acting! And, to quote Fanny Crosby, "I love to tell the story of Jesus and His love"! more..

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