Enjoying the prime of your life

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By David Whitlock

Usually when someone makes a positive comment about a picture I’m in, I take it because it doesn’t happen often. Mr. Photogenic I am not. So when a dear, saintly lady in my church complimented the “wonderful” picture of my son Dave and me taken during this year’s Vacation Bible School, I had to take a second look at it because there was something about it I didn’t like.

The picture was in a group of VBS photographs hanging on a wall in the church’s educational building. Dave at age 23 looks great. His arm is draped around my shoulder, and he’s wearing a handsome smile. I, on the other hand, in my VBS T-shirt, look very unlike the Senior Pastor—Senior as in the leader among several. But I did look very senior as in over age 55.

Whoever snapped that photo took it before I had time to flash my youthful smile instead of the fatigued “Is Vacation Bible School over yet?” forced grin the picture reveals.

I have thought of secretly taking the picture off the wall, somehow Photoshop a younger picture of myself onto it and then sneak it back where it was.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m learning to accept the fact that I am actually over f-f-f-f-f-fifty-five. I get that my body doesn’t replace cells as quickly as it used to. So what if it takes a little longer for me to recover from my weight training work outs? And though I miss it, I’ve given up outdoor running: My degenerative disc disease prefers the indoor elliptical trainer. And that little extra fold of skin on my neck doesn’t look like a turkey’s gobbler, I keep telling myself.

Fifty seven may not be heaven, but neither is 37, or 23 for that matter.

Then I read where Geraldo Rivera celebrated his 70th birthday by tweeting an almost nude picture of himself taken in his bathroom at 2 a.m. “70 is the new 50,” he said.

This upset the gerontological harmony I had achieved. If 70 is the new 50, does this mean I am supposed to look like I’m 30 something when I’m really 50 something?

Trying to look 30 something adds more pressure to my life, stressing me to look ever more youthful, tempting me to Photoshop more pictures. And this worrisome race to reverse my age will only hasten the aging process, I fear.

Thank the Lord for the recent news about Diana Nyad. She’s the 64-year-old athlete who a few weeks ago became the first swimmer to go the distance from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

What she couldn’t do at age 28 in 1978 (this was her fourth attempt to go the distance) she accomplished at age 64.

When she reached the shore at Smathers Beach in Key West, Florida, she told the crowd, “You’re never too old to chase your dreams.”

And she said something else: “I may not look it right now, but you catch me on a good day, I’m in my prime.”

She recognizes she doesn’t look 40 something, and  that’s ok, because she can still strive to achieve; she can blossom at whatever age she is.

I suppose Arthur Rubenstein, who at age 89 gave one of his greatest recitals at New York’s Carnegie Hall would agree with Nyad, as would Albert Schweitzer, who at 89 headed a hospital in Africa. And Konrad Adenauer, who became Chancellor of Germany at 88, Benjamin Franklin, who at 81 helped in the adoption of the United States Constitution, and Grandma Moses, who was still painting at 100, and Winston Churchill, who wrote A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, at 82, and George Bernard Shaw, who wrote a play at 94 would all applaud her as well.  And let’s not forget the Biblical characters, Caleb, who at 80 was one of those selected to spy out the land of Canaan, and Moses, who was still leading the people of Israel at 120.

So, I walked down the hall again and took another look at that picture. By golly, my friend is right: That’s a darn good picture of a 50-something guy who has the best ahead of him and has yet to reach his prime.

No wonder his son is smiling like he’s happy for him.