Great Cloud of Witnesses

So yesterday, November 28, 2016, I turned 60 years of age. This site, Jeff at 60, is now appropriately named. I have now lived 60 years and have many, but perhaps not enough, memories. At 60, I thought it might be a good time to reminisce.

Some time back I began to learn about and practice meditation. I even listened to one of those “Great Courses” on meditation. The instructor noted that meditation requires us to stay in the moment by focusing on our breath or some other focal point. He then said that our minds would wander in one of two directions. We will think about the past or the future. If we think about the past the default thoughts are typically regrets. If we think about the future, the default thoughts turn to “to do” list making. I found this to be true. So when I peruse my memory bank, I need some help to go to those places that give me a warm and fond recollection. Which brings me to what I experienced yesterday.

I have a Facebook page and have entered my birth date. As a result, I received a remarkable number of birthday good wishes. Too many to thank personally. What caught my attention as I looked at each (and I did) was that there were greetings from people from every phase of my life. I got greetings from people I knew in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, law school, my legal career, seminary, and my now 9 year ministry.

What was even more profound was that I had a specific memory of each person, and a particular event that made me smile. No regrets. Fond memories. This is significant.

When I perform marriage ceremonies I often quote the movie “Shall We Dance”. It is a movie about a married man (Richard Gere) who secretly takes ballroom dancing lessons from a young woman (Jennifer Lopez). His wife (Susan Sarandon) suspects an affair and hires a private investigator to see what’s going on. The PI reports back that … well … her husband is taking dancing lessons … period. The PI believes this is good news but the wife does not think so. There is something about her husband she does not know. Why is this a big deal?

The wife says this about why marriage is important.

“Because we need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on this planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything: the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things—all of it,all the time, every day. You’re saying your life will not go unnoticed, because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed, because I will be your witness.”

I thought about that yesterday. I have been witnessed — by each and every one of you who sent me greetings! And each and every one of you who sent me greetings (and many who did not) have been witnessed — by me! We have not gone unnoticed. None of us. And while the movie quote talks of marriage, it also talks of community. Our lives are a community event. Or a series of community events. Good times, bad times, mundane times in each. And they are our times. Given to us by God to be … well … lived. And enjoyed. And to be memorable.

And let me say  this. When those regrets surge to the front? People of my faith believe God has forgiven us for the times when we miss-stepped. I think that is true of most other faith traditions as well. And so we can just let those regrets go. Knowing that we are human, and flawed, yet still loved, by God and those who have witnessed our lives.

So yesterday I got to take a walk down 60 years of a life, and a bunch of other lives (even if just moments in them) and know that I have lived.

Thanks for the birthday wishes. And thanks for the memories.