On turning 50

I’ve been saying the word fairly frequently over the last few months, trying to get my mouth used to it.


It’s got a nice, clean sound to it. It’s not cumbersome like “forty-seven.” And numerically, it’s lovely. The Romans even gave 50 its own number-letter: L.

Fifty is the tipping point. When the odds are 50-50, chances are even. But once you add weight to one side or the other, the scales get uneven and begin to tip. But 50 is the point of balance. I wish I could say I was well balanced.

As I turn 50 today, I feel anything but crisp and clean and well-balanced.

I’ve been sick for the last few days, so my body feels off balance. The decongestant I’m on has my mind feeling less than crisp. And my current job uncertainty has my bank account looking clean, but not in a good way.

I keep thinking to myself, “What am I going to do when I grow up?”

I’ve edited magazines and books, writing more than 1,000 articles and blog posts along the way, but I have yet to finish and publish a book of my own. Not yet! I’m close. Really close.

I’ve pastored and attempted to pioneer churches, and I wonder what my role is to be in the years ahead. Right now, I’m quite enjoying not being in church leadership. After so many years of sermon prep and everything else, it’s nice to simply show up and participate. But we’ll see how long that lasts.

I’ve been a chaplain this past year, but budget changes at the hospital have gutted my hours. And though I feel like I’ve been a good companion to people as they’ve walked through their own personal hells of death or debilitating illness, I’m not sure I want to be limited to short-term, urgent care for people. My preference is years-spanning relationships of growing friendship and depth.

So, as I stand at the end of 50 years of life, I am grateful for the many friends I’ve enjoyed knowing and laughing and praying and crying and singing with throughout them.

If the quality of a life can be judged by the quality of the people it’s been spent with, then I’ve lived the best life I can ever imagine living. The people I have given my heart to are the best sort of people there are. There are things in my life I would do differently if I had a chance to do them again. But not the people. I’d keep them all.

And I’m grateful for the work I’ve been able to do so far. We need people to love. But we also need something worthwhile to do.

In his book All Families are Psychotic, Douglas Coupland sets a scene where two people are awaiting death and have a conversation about superheroes. Namely, what superpower would you have if you could make up your own? And one of them says, “My power would be to enable people to see God.”

When I read those words, I began to cry. For the first time in my life, someone had articulated my purpose in life: I want to help people see God.

I am so grateful that I’ve been able to live these 50 years among such excellent people and to live out my calling of helping people to see God in most of the work I’ve done. I have no idea what’s next for me at this vocational crossroads, but if I can keep doing those two things, I’ll be a happy, happy man.