I’m tired of being young— I’m gonna’ start being an old man today
I turned 60 today and it was and just in time. I’m tired of being young and I intend start being an old man beginning this morning. Being old has its advantages and I intend to cash in on them. I’ve been young too long. There are, of course, great personal rewards for being in my 60’s. Like, for instance I intend to quit looking behind me when I back up my car—I’ve looked back for more than 50 years, and it’s time for others to take their turn now. But the greatest advantage of becoming an old man has to do with my writing here on the Internet which is why I’m publishing this essay.
How I plan to change now that I’m an old man:
1. I’m gonna’ grow a beard. Actually I already started one while hiking this summer and Sharon liked it when I came home. She commanded me to keep it (so long as I made room for hairless kissing) so I’m keeping the beard for a while as if I’m a wild old man. People don’t take bearded people as seriously so I intend to be taken less seriously now that I’m an old man.
2. I’m gonna’ write only when I want to. If I don’t feel like writing for a week or two I’m simply gonna’ skip it and refuse to worry about a dozen emails on Wednesday morning scolding me for “skipping yesterday’s column” as if they were paying me a salary. I’ll just blow off these scolding emails saying, “I’m an old man now—I write when I want to.”
3. I gonna’ write every time I want to. I’m supposedly a writer of the ‘Tuesday Column” which is supposed to be published every Tuesday. Well sometimes I have more than one column in me by Tuesdays. To date when that happens I just file the extra column notes in my “idea file” and I wrote only one column. As an old man I intend to be more immoderate—if I have five ideas for a column in one week I plan to write all five (as I did last week while practicing becoming an old man).
4. I’m gonna’ talk about politics more. When I was young (last year) and addressed current political issues I got all kinds of people mad at me who felt I must “get in line” with the Republichristian party. Some were really mean to me. So what? Now that I’m an old man I don’t plan to care as much when people get mad—and maybe being old will garner some pity too—you know, they’ll say [wagging their heads] “Must be hardening of the arteries” or “Maybe he was shell-shocked in VietNam…” Oh yeah, when I speak of politics I don’t just mean the national kind, I plan to venture into church politics some too—that’ll surely be fun! (I practiced doing this too this summer before I got old—I’ll do it even better now that I’m an old man).
5. I’m gonna’ reflect more on my past. Old people are supposed to look back and tell stories to the younger folk. Old men are supposed to examine their life’s events and find lessons and wisdom and teach them to younger folk who refuse to listen. Being old doesn’t automatically make one wise, but reflecting on events can bring wisdom useful to others. I intend to remember more and reflect on the past in order to extract the wisdom. I’ll be telling more stories here online now that I’m an old man. Since I spent so many years in [denominational] public life I’ll have to be careful of telling too much, but there are stories that should be told and lessons that can be learned. Some of these stories have sensitive parts, so I have to figure out a way that only my two sons can read the sensitive facts of history while making the general story available to everybody.
6. I’m gonna’ argue with my sons more. Speaking of my sone, I plan to argue with them more. I have two sons who are great thinkers and good writers. David Drury is “Minister of Connections” (one of those new titles for pastors like “Worship arts minister” or “Minister to emerging Christians” or “minister to exiting members”). Dave is on staff at Spring Lake Wesleyan Church in Michigan (latest sermon series: “War of the Worlds”). Dave is a Gordon seminary grad and a spokesman-explainer of sorts for the so-called “Emergent church.” I plan to argue with Dave more now that I’m an old man. My second son is in the PhD program at Princeton seminary in theology so he obviously needs an old man around to straighten him out and mow him down to size a bit. As an old man I’d rather do this sort of mowing than the kind my yard requires. The three of us recently returned from our every-other-year (is that semi-annual or bi-annual?) backpacking trip. We got along much too well for folk from different generations and we agreed far too often. I intend to remedy that by disagreeing with them more—it’s an old man’s job description to disagree with the next generation.
7. I’m gonna’ laugh more and take things less seriously. Everybody in the church is too serious—even young people. As a young man I’ve taken myself far too seriously and acted at times like the church was about to collapse. As an old man I now know that the church will survive all kinds of things. I’ve seen it survive past “emergencies” like holy laughter, WWJD, KJV-RSV, the Church Growth movement and the Prayer of Jabez so I now know it will make it through Purpose-Driven pot-holders. It survived Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Tammy Faye so I know it will survive Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Joel Osteen. And in the interest of being lighter I plan to make fun of things more and poke fun at people—especially Baptists and Nazarenes, who are my most frequent readers. Actually I think I’ll poke fun at people in the exact order of my readership. In fact I may have to make fun of lots of my own past writing too—I was far to serious a writer as a young man.
8. When I seriously invest my time I’m gonna’ invest in lasting things. As a young man I fought every battle I encountered—when I saw smoke I loaded my guns and went off seeking battle. As a young man everything seems to be an emergency requiring a nuclear response. Now that I’m an old man I plan to pick my battles more carefully and in my serious life (daytime teaching as a college professor and in writing books). My last two books (one book just out the other one on the way in December) were this sort of more serious and lasting writing. I’ve always wanted to write a “classic” book—one that would outlast me…that would still be in print after I’m dead. I may never accomplish that, but it won’t be for not trying. While I intend to be more irreverent and less serious as an old man while writing Internet columns, I intend to be more serious in my book writing—who knows one of these books could outlast me. That, of course, will be up to the readers.
So I plan to be more playful and irreverent in my Tuesday Column and at the same time more serious and lasting in my day job of teaching and writing books. I started writing an Internet column in 1995 when there were 17 pastors in my denomination with email addresses. Since then things have changed considerably. I’ve kept writing a weekly column all these years and plan to keep at it another 10-20 years. But from now on I’ll be writing as an old man, not a young one. Will that make me more popular with readers? Who knows? Who cares? I certainly don’t. I write this column as a discipline—it is like doing morning exercises—do you really care if somebody watches you do deep knee bends? Writing this column is my exercise as a writer. If you want to watch, well, sure OK. But I do it for the exercise most of all.
July 28, 2005