The Glory Years of Our Lives

StkChamps2012

TheDiscipleMD

Several years ago at a church basketball game I planted myself just outside the three-point line. I was looking for a pass because I was open. A teammate saw me and fired the basketball over to me and I let it fly. Swish! A three pointer! My teammates gave me a cheer and made a big deal about it. I got a couple of atta boys as I ran back down the court with a smile. But I knew then, as I should have known before, that my time as a serious basketball player is over. Why? Well, I was reminded of a story I read on the life of the great New York Yankee first basemen, Lou Gehrig. He was one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. Yet, in his final years as a player, and unbeknownst to him, he was slowly dying from a disease that now carries his name. He was not quite 38 years of age when he died. In his last year of playing baseball, Gehrig, weakened and feeble, but still playing, lined a single into the outfield during one afternoon game. As he stood on first he looked to see his teammates cheering him from the dugout. He said, “I knew then that I was done”. Gehrig knew that if his teammates made such a big deal out of his single, his time had come. And so, I recognized that night, if not before, that while I am still playing, the biggest contribution I am making is simply trying to keep my aging body in shape. And that’s a good thing, but….well!

The times and seasons of our lives are ever changing. As we move along in life, opportunities come and go. In business or church, in family, or marriage, it changes. Sometimes we don’t like the changes that happen to us, but many we cannot control. In 2010 a book was published that was written by Elder Robert D. Hales. It was called “Return: Four Phases of our Mortal Journey”. In it he went over phases or stages found in church life. He named them “decades of preparation”, ” a decade of decision”, “decades of serving and pressing forward”, and “decades of serving and enduring to the end”. Found therein are some great concepts and advice for going through the phases of church life. I think part of the message given by Elder Hales also had to do with the acceptance of the changing phases of our lives. Sometimes our inability to let go of them becomes a hindrance to our growth because each phase of our life teaches us different things. To try to hold onto an earlier phase is not very productive. I well remember the words of a song written by Bruce Springsteen, called “Glory Days”. The middle-aged singer tells of meeting up with an old high school baseball teammate who can’t seem to stop talking about the glory days of high school. He happens upon a woman who “used to turn all the boys heads”, but whose life is now in tatters. She too just wants to talk about the old times. He finishes the song with this refrain:

“… I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it but I probably will Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture a little of the glory of, well time slips away and leaves you with nothing mister but boring stories of glory days”

Well, I love telling and listening to “glory” stories of days past as do most. They bring back great memories and often generate tender feelings. But telling them for fun and wishing to go back are two different things. This life holds for us the blessings and benefits that come with phases. I know that I have certainly gained different insights from being a grandfather than from when I was a father. And I think that is a good thing. Our family phases, church phases, and occupational phases all teach us important things and can be part of and add to our “glory years”.

Sometimes I wish I could go back and be the kind of basketball player I once was, which by the way, was never much. However, there is something to be gained by being an “elder statesman” of the team. There is no expectation of points, no real pressure on you to score. Yet, there is a certain respect that comes with age, and I feel that from my teammates. It’s a bit touching to see their kindness and willingness to give up minutes of their playing time so that I can run the court. It’s not pity, its genuine kindness.  It would be nice to be one of the “stars” but that day is long gone. It requires a bit of humility to run the court and have the ball stolen from you or dribble it off your leg. It’s a different experience for me. I’m learning a lot! That is life in a nutshell! Ever changing:ever learning! That’s life, and that is the way the Lord designed it. So enjoy whatever phase you’re in and learn from it. Then, when the next phase of life comes, accept it, and move forward with steadfastness and determination, and…with a smile! The “glory years” of our lives can be each year, this year, and last forever, if we choose to see them that way.

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