First, I don’t feel like I thought I’d feel at 60. It sounds really old to me. But I don’t feel substantially different at 60 than I did at 40. A few more aches and pains to be sure. But I feel good and by God’s grace, I’m still fit and sharp. I truly believe my sixties will be the most impactful decade of my life! Age is just a number. Old is a state of mind. So in that sense, I’m still quite young. However, I am wiser and with that in mind, here’s a few reflections on turning 60.
#1: People are gonna think what they’re gonna think about me.
I don’t think we realize how much emotional energy we drain by trying to manage what others think about us. The truth is, we don’t really know what they’re thinking, unless of course, they tell us. But even then, we don’t have to try to manage, or change what they think. In our culture, a lot of time and money are put into image and brand management. But most of that’s to get people to think better of us than they should. And usually they’re selling something. Don’t do it. Just you be you.
One of my favorite descriptions of how Jesus lived his life is found in John 2:23-25. It says, “many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” (NIV) Jesus didn’t entrust himself to others and to what they thought about Him. He didn’t need validation from other people. He knew one minute they would be singing his praises, and the next minute they would be shouting “crucify him!” People are fickle like that.
I’ve found this to be true. Some people think more highly of me than they should. These are the “pedestal people.” Fans. They like you and think you’re all that and a bag of potato chips. Until they don’t. For years as a pastor I would tell people, “Please don’t put me on a pedestal. I’ll do a swan dive coming off it!” The reality is I will disappoint people. I do disappoint people. I’m imperfect, with more flaws than I care to admit. But the sooner I accept my humanity, the less I have to worry about managing my image, defending my decisions, and trying to please people.
On the other hand, some people will always think the worst about me. The trolls. Which leads me to point 2.
#2: It only matters what God knows about me.
Only God knows my heart. Why I do what I do. Others are only guessing…or worse, judging my motives. Here’s another thing I’ve learned in 60 years on the planet. You can actually do the right thing, with the right motive, and still get the wrong result. People will misjudge you, misunderstand you, even misquote you. But it’s okay. God knows your heart. God knows why you did what you did and will reward you accordingly. So stop worrying about what others think (cuz’ they’re gonna think what they’re gonna think) and stay focused on what God knows about you.
The reality is that God loves me deeply, with all of my strengths and weakness, failures and successes, sin and godliness. I am convinced that nothing can separate me from God’s love. Nothing. Our brother Paul talks about this reality in Romans 8:31-39, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died — more than that, who was raised to life — is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? (or what people think?) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)
Friends that is our home. We are loved deeply, no matter what. Which brings me to my final reflection.
#3. When we stop looking for validation from others, we’re free to love them.
I heard a great quote from a friend on Facebook this morning. “Are you living for love…or from love?” This really got me thinking. As long as I’m looking for others to love me, trying to manage what they think about me, maintaining an image, I’m not free to love. I’m seeking to be loved. As long as we’re desperately trying to be loved by others, we can’t love them well.
Conversely, when we know we’re loved by God, we can live FROM love. Since God loves me with all my faults and failures, I can love others with all of theirs. I feel no need to criticize, judge or condemn. Since I don’t have to meet a standard to be loved, then neither do they. Friends, this is the Gospel, the good news. God loves us deeply and invites us to love others the same way He loves us.
So at age 60, I now live by a singular command. (No need to try and memorize the 10 commandments. I was never great at memorization anyway.) There’s only one command I seek to live by. Jesus referenced it as a “new” command, the new command in the new testament, in the new Kingdom now established in heaven and earth.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35, NIV)
I’ll leave you with this simple poem. (Someone should write a song with this.)
People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. Love them anyway.
People are gonna say what they’re gonna say. Love them anyway.
People are gonna do what they’re gonna do. Love them anyway.