Today is my 80th birthday, so rather than writing about theological / ethical / political matters as I often do, this article is mostly personal. Although I had nearly finished "Temptations upon Turning Eighty," the article I originally planned for today, I decided to scrap it and to focus instead on gratitude rather than on temptations.
Theologian Diana Butler Bass’s new (2018) book is titled Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks. Although I have not yet read it all, I think Bass's book is basically correct, so I begin these reflections by expressing my gratitude for the following:
(1) I am thankful for good health. Except for a small pill I take each morning for high blood pressure and another small pill I take each evening for cholesterol, I seem to have no other health problems that are not kept under control with diet and exercise. (That is why I am not yielding to the temptations to quit jogging or just to eat whatever I want.)
Also, I am grateful for good genes as well as for good health: my father was quite healthy until four days before he died at age 92.
(2) I am thankful for a good wife and a good family. As many of you know, June and I married in May 1957, the same month we graduated from Southwest Baptist College ( a junior college then, a university now). I was still 18 and June was 19.
Then on this day, August 15, the next year, our son precious Keith was born. Today we are celebrating, together, his 60th birthday along with my 80th birthday.
After Keith, we had three more children, and now we also have seven grandchildren. I am most thankful for the good wife and mother June has been all these years and also grateful for the fine people our children and grandchildren are—and are becoming.
(3) I am thankful for my calling and for my career in Japan. As most of you know, June and I spent 38 years as missionaries to Japan, and I served for 36 years as a full-time professor and administrator at Seinan Gakuin (University) and the last 24 of those years also as a part-time pastor.
Our years in Japan were quite difficult in some ways, but very rewarding in most ways. I am deeply grateful for our calling to that field of service and for the challenges of seeking to fulfill that calling.
When I wrote about June’s 80th birthday last year (here), I said that “she has basically lived a life without regrets.” I can mostly say the same about myself—but still, there are some regrets.
I have absolutely no regrets about getting married so young and starting our family so soon. (If I had the choice, I would certainly do the same thing again.) But I do regret that through the years I was not a better husband and a better father. There are many ways I could have—and should have—done better.
Also, as implied above, I have absolutely no regret about living and serving in Japan for 38 years. (Once more, if I had the choice, here also I would do the same thing again.) But I do regret that I was not able to be a more effective teacher, a more effective pastor, and a more effective administrator.
Gratitude Tops Regret
Still, there is no use of harboring any regrets for the past, which cannot be changed--or in worrying about the future. So I am determined to live in the present, today and in all the days ahead, with gratitude, bearing in mind these wise words:
|By Ann Voscamp|