“The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest,” T.S. Eliot said to “Time Magazine” in the early months of 1950. And why? Eliot answered: “Because you are always being asked to do things, and yet you are not decrepit enough to turn them down.” Dear reader, your humble columnist has now entered the hardest years.
When I first began writing I was half the age I am now. I had all the answers, all the proper insights, and could explain away any conundrum of faith with a wave of my marvelous exposition of holy scripture. Well, it was more than a wave. My earliest columns were blabbering manifestos of a thousand words each. They are half that length now, and I am left with far more questions than answers.
Of course, I looked younger too. My skin was tighter without these first shades of liver marks. My beard was still ruddy. My left elbow didn’t hurt when the weather turned colder; and I could stare at a digital screen for hours without the assistance of reading glasses (They are called “Blue Blocker Computer Glasses,” but that’s a lie.).
Truly, I have entered the metallic age of life, with silver in my hair, gold in my teeth, and lead in my butt. Indeed, Mr Eliot, these promise to be the hardest years. But it’s not all bad, not in the least. While I mourn the changes to my “decrepit” body, I am learning to embrace the changes to my heart and soul – liberating changes in my perspective, achieved by having five decades on my odometer.
For example, I don’t need people to agree with my views, and I’m no longer interested in trying to convince anyone of anything; I can only speak of what I have experienced. What others think of me is none of my business; I can’t do anything about my own thoughts sometimes – much less with what others think. With every passing day I have less to protect and less to prove; I can only, as James Hollis says, “Show up as the flawed, clunky, awkward self that I am, and step outside the map prepared for me by others.”
God is a mystery to explore, not a math problem to solve. Faith isn’t the cure for all that ails us; it is a hopeful journey largely toward the unknown. Love is the only thing that lasts; not our bodies, not these weekly columns about life and faith, not resolute statements of orthodoxy, not even the memory of our names: Only love will last.
“The drawing of this Love,” to quote Eliot once again, calls me into the future, a future I am eager to explore with all the imagination and curiosity of a child. Yes, these years to come may be the hardest yet, as the more youthful part of my life comes to an end, but “to make an end is to make a beginning,” Eliot said, “and the end is where we start.”