It’s a beautiful July day and I am taking time to write my new Blog and Insights that I’m publishing this month. I am sat in the same area where I was as an undergraduate reading Theology and Religious Studies at Manchester University some 32 years ago.
Looking down from the Ryland’s library window I can hear and see many students with their families travelled from the Great Hall, where their Graduation ceremony has just taken place, to the university quadrangle where the Celebration Marquee is housed for everyone to enjoy a Celebratory Drink. There are lots of photos being taken with the students smiling and laughing whilst proudly wearing their Graduation garments for all to see and appreciate.
Human life is full of different stages to navigate and graduate from and to, until our final graduation when we take our last breathe. In a very general sense we can say that there are three stages in life. Formative Years. – from birth to around thirty years. Mid Years – from thirty to around sixty years. Retirement Years – from sixty to the day we die.
Think for a moment where you are within those stages of life? Are you on an upward 10% gradient or a downward 10% gradient?
It’s wonderful to observe a new born baby and see the different stages they go through. From the breast they are weaned to eat solids and then progress from the nappy to the potty to the toilet, alongside crawling, walking and talking and sleeping. They become more demanding and ask why all the time!
They graduate from nursery, infants, juniors and seniors and beyond. They are baptised, christened and take their first communion. They fall and get scratches, bruises and broken bones.
As adolescents they become cheeky and sleepy, alert and disinterested, they are loved and learn how to love others saying sorry and not being so self-centred. The big wide world is equally scary and wonderfully engaging. They become body conscious and compare themselves to others trying to understand their own character and personalities. They learn how to spend and save money, to buy clothes, exercise, read a book, listen to music and play the latest video games.
Exams are failed, passed and retaken. Negotiating the driving test and initial job interviews that reject or confirm life skills and abilities cause them to shine or feel a bit jaded. Sleep-overs, all night parties, negotiating with parents and learning how to recover. First kiss, first love, rejection and loneliness. Settlement, contentment, faith, no faith, thankfulness and resentment for parents and carers and experiencing independence in the modern world. We find our perfect place to live being on our own, married or living together. There is planned or unplanned pregnancies, raising children, divorce, separation and renewed love.
Such a lot has happened in the first thirty years of life. We make a self-assessment on how we have graduated giving ourselves a first, second, third, pass or fail. Pause for a moment to give thanks for your formative years the good, bad and the ugly and forgive those who didn’t treat you as they should have in ignorance or with malice.
At this point life may feel quite settled or still in a period of flux either trying to accept the status quo with thanksgiving or regret. We continue to work hard to provide for all our personal needs and family responsibilities. We support our parents, siblings, children and wider family members. We seek to create and celebrate many life achievements with party’s and special meals together. We are quietly content in our lovely homes, confident at work whilst negotiating promotions, one to ones, disputes and preparing for the long haul towards retirement with a planned or interrupted pension.
We enjoy ours days in the home, on holiday and coping with various health issues that affect us. They all seem at times like a 20% uphill or downward gradient.
We adapt to increased waistlines whilst trying to maintain some form of exercise regime. Loss, bereavement and confusion, in many forms, challenge us to the core but we are thankful for long term friends and family who make that continual difference.
We move and settle into a different home creating a place of calm or chaos! We aspire to own that dream car or environmentally friendly rusty bike. We live hand to mouth or have excessive amounts of cash in the bank for personal use only. We hold on to friends that we have known since school days or realise they are few in number and it’s hard to establish new ones.
In all we begin to look back and forward wondering what if! As with those formative years seek to accept the good, bad and the ugly and forgive those who didn’t treat you as they should have in ignorance or with malice.
I have known many people who have been fortunate to take an early retirement from around 50 – 55 years with a full pension. Many though have had to retire early due to ill health or difficult circumstances with only state benefits to live on.
In both cases it can be very difficult to adapt from a life of organised work to a life of change wherein we have a freedom to organise our own days, apart from the demands our loved ones place upon us and any financial constraints.
Sunset. Thanks Noaa unsplash.com
However, life continues with beautiful children being born and many opportunities to care for them, remembering those formative years from a different perspective. We downsize, take it easy and seek to enjoy life in a different way. We think again about why we were baptised, christened and the importance of sharing Holy Communion. Brother and sister pain, comes to visit us and we become regulars at the doctors and local hospital. It seems like we are facing a 30% uphill or downward gradient.
Silently or out loud we prepare to meet our maker graduating to some place that we haven’t fully researched or accepted, concluding that any eternal theory or fact is irrelevant to daily living. We look to make up with those we have fallen out with or just accept that no reconciliation will take place.
We complete a ‘last will and testament’ for the estate we have accumulated to be distributed to those people and charities we love. Life is one long graduation combining different gradients that go up and down with ease or great pain.
Recently on LinkedIn it has been great to read the stories of the Graduates saying thanks to their family, friends and lecturers who have helped them during their studies and all their aspirations for a bright future.
As with those formative and mid years may we accept the good, bad and the ugly and forgive those who didn’t treat us as they should have in ignorance or with malice.
Our bodies and minds change and decay and we see the chequered flag of life emerging. But as a Christian Minister and person of faith I believe that there is a wonderful hope that one day we may be in the very presence of our Maker and Redeemer.
In that new and eternal life, there may be more plateaus than gradients, but having such a hope and aspiration, it offers me a strength for today and a bright hope for tomorrow.
Selah (pause to think calmly on what you have just read)