Yesterday was my birthday, and I am now 66 years old. When my son, Steve, wished me Happy Birthday, I responded by saying, “Yes, 66 really sounds old.” To which he replied, “It doesn’t just sound old, it is old.” And so my birthday went. We had a nice gathering of family, some nice gifts and cake and such. In the middle of it all, my two month old grandchild Alec pooped all over me. He even smiled and cooed while doing it, as if he knew his diaper was loose on the side. We all laughed, and it was a good celebration of being 66.
I can remember when age 65 was kind of a “magical” age to imagine and think about. 65 was when most people would retire. 65 was “old” (at least it seemed like it when I was my son’s age). 65 was Social Security and Medicare (of course now for my age group, 66 is the new 65 for Social Security). 65 was when I imagined I would retire. The first pin number I ever chose for an ATM machine had 65 in it – just so I could remember it.
66 is not an age which conjures any such kind of special interest. 66 reminds me more of the old TV show called “Route 66” named after that U.S. highway which stretches across the country. Some people still make it a point to drive on Route 66 for nostalgia. So I guess the best thing I can do with the number 66 is to think of this year as a new route for my life, another chapter, another aspect of living and traveling through time.
This year is also the year that I am heading toward my retirement. As bishops we retire on September 1st and on a 4-year cycle called a quadrennium. When I was elected a bishop in 1996 at age 46, I knew I would be serving for 20 years (sounds like a prison term when I say it that way), and would retire at age 66 and then turn 67 a few days later. The General Conference raised our mandatory retirement age so I technically could serve until 2020, but I believe that retiring in 2016 fulfills my original commitment and makes more sense for me personally. So, “Route 66” is my year of traveling toward retirement. My daughter, Laura, even gave me a “retirement countdown clock” for my birthday – so I can set it for September 1, 2016, and watch the months, days, minutes, and seconds count down. Or, I can simply use it as a desk clock to tell time.
Time is funny thing. Some days I can’t believe I am this age, and I think of myself as being about 35 (until I look in a mirror and see myself). Other days the years are heavy, and I feel the aches and pains and memories of 66 years. Time is relative according to science, and that has certainly been my experience. Some days and some meetings drag along like eternity, and some events and some years go by very quickly.
The Biblical view of “time” is different. Time is not just “chronos” (the Greek word from which comes chronology), time is also “Kairos” which is all about “the right time.” Jesus used “time” in the latter sense. He declared, “The time is now, the kingdom of God is near, repent and believe the Gospel.” He understood himself to be sent into the world at the “right time.”
During my years of life I often have been compulsive about chronology, but I have also looked for the “right time” (Kairos) to see God at work. I expect my driving on “Route 66” this year to be more about Kairos than Chronology. A count-down clock cannot measure the importance of any particular moment; only a sense of God’s presence and Kingdom can do that. And so … the journey continues, and the opportunities to encounter God’s will are endless. I am grateful for each moment and each birthday, but I look for a longer and deeper understanding of time.