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Stages

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During dinner, my daughter notes that in ten years she will be 31 years old, and we will be around retirement age. My youngest then asks, "What do you think about when you are in your 50s? Do you think differently?" First answer that comes to mind is "I don't know," and "I suppose I do think differently."

Truth of the matter is that I'm in that mid-stage of life. I feel like a clich in some ways. We are almost empty nesters in that one has successfully launched on his own, and the others are in various stages of higher education and young adult life. We find ourselves with evenings alone and time to meet with friends during the week or join various groups and Bible studies at church. We really do have a lot more freedom in so many respects.

I would say that our freedom reminds me of our days before kids, but it really doesn't. Turns out, I do think differently now. I'm so much more laid back than I was then. I was "tightly wound" as others who knew me would put it. I worried about many things, I never seemed to have enough and it was "me vs. the world." Those things have been minimized. Edges have been worn. The sharp contrast of black and white has bled considerably to create large areas of gray. That need to or convenience of quickly sorting people and situations doesn't exist so much. That slow erosion of a dogmatic religion has been so freeing.

I look at my children, and I remember what it was like to be in my early 20s. I hadn't yet grasped the beauty of living in each day for the day's sake. I was busy doing, doing and doing. Output driven, it was check in and out and on to the next thing. Much of it was exciting, and acquiring was fun albeit tiring in many ways. That is somewhat over though. That "second half" of life that I had heard about has come.

Some of it is the perspective of years, but a lot of it has come with my growth in Christ and mindfully living each day. The needs of the world are all around me. It is my response that matters. Not the dollar to the needy or the sandwich to the hungry. Those are important and absolutely a necessary outcome of faith. I'm talking about the response in my heart. That inner voice that quells the judgments, that realizes in a split second that the other is just as I am. Not better or worse, in or out, more successful or less, black or white, blessed or cursed. We become one in Christ. I've experienced this so I know that it exists and is attainable. It takes practice and mindfulness. I still have a long way to go. This journey, as we are told, requires us to pick up the cross daily. When I do choose to pick it up, prepare for it and know that I carry it for this day and focus on this day, the world looks different. I am different. There is something just wondrous and mysterious about that.

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