(#1 Excerpt from Ch 1 "Climbing to my summit" from current book-in-progress, STILL MORE--FLOURISHING ON MY SUMMIT.
This book is about my experience living the advanced years of my life, my “summit years.” The top of a mountain should be the best place to view the entire 380 degree panorama of landscape. That is true also as we reach the summit of our lives. Whatever our calendar age, any of us may already be at our personal summit since we don't know the length of our earthly life. I can be quite sure, however, in the latter half of my eightieth decade I'm living at the summit of my life.
As a Christian, my look backward should be satisfying—not proud nor disappointed but grateful and thankful. As I look around, I should be contented. I should be exhilarated to anticipate what's ahead. But none of us live in an ideal world nor have we led perfect lives. Since the Lord has been my Master Teacher for most of my life, I'm expected to have accumulated a lot of knowledge, experience, and wisdom. Perhaps I'm the one who has benefited most from writing an account of what I learned from the long, steep climb to reach this summit.
Summit implies summary
Early in my life, I decided I would try to evaluate my journey as I went along so I would be sure I had the right goals in view, and that my life-ladder was leaning against the right house that God wanted to build of my life. I’ve tried to live the examined life, which Plato said was the only life worth living. I didn’t want to arrive at the top of my chronological mountain with a backpack full of regrets, nor view the other side of the mountain with disillusionment, despair, or dread.
At intervals, at least once a year, I've tried to set aside time to ask myself specific, searching questions and write in a journal. My answers aren’t meant for anyone but God, the Searcher of hearts, to see. I wish I had begun that self-evaluation practice earlier. Had I done so and continued it more regularly that might have prevented some detours for which I do have regrets. However, I can't focus on those now. I repented of them, confessed them, turned from them and believe that God has forgiven me. I keep moving on.
Among the questions I've asked myself are: Do I know God’s purpose for my life? What talents, capabilities, skills and gifts has God given me to carry out that purpose? What have been my specific life goals? Are they realistic, measurable, and attainable? Am I certain they are God’s goals for me to pursue? Have I been achieving my potential based on resources and opportunities God has given me? What real or imagined obstacles have I faced? What are my current limitations? Can I do anything about them? To what degree have I come to terms with them? Am I accepting them joyfully?
Am I in line with how God measures success, or do I try to live up to my own or other people’s expectations? Do I define my self-worth in terms of my accomplishments or my character? What cause, issue, or calling am I passionate about? Is it from God, from my own ambition, or imposed by others? Am I more concerned about personal satisfaction and happiness or how I can serve and encourage others? What have been the darkest events or periods of my life? Have I grown through them or did they set me back? Do I see God’s hand in them for my good?
The closer I came to the top of my life summit, the more time-sensitive my self-evaluation becomes. I ask myself:
From the perspective of an average life span, how many physically, mentally and spiritually productive or alert years might I realistically still expect? In view of that, on what priorities should I focus? What “things of the world” or “cares of life” hinder my pursuit of eternal values and sap my time and strength? What could I eliminate or limit? Is there anything significant I am missing in my life? Should I still go for it or accept its absence?
What benefits and bonus blessings has God given me at this time of my life for which I should specifically thank Him? Is my life characterized by joy and optimism or by complaint, negativism, defeat, depression? Do I have a grateful, contented heart toward God, or am I frustrated about unfinished work, unfulfilled goals, broken dreams, or unsatisfactory relationships? Is Christ truly still the center of my life, or am I focused on a cause, a ministry, a person, or my own desires? Am I satisfied with what I have become and with what God in His omniscience decided to paint on the canvas of my life?
Such questions go to the core of my authentic self, my inner person, my eternal spirit created by God. I struggle over the honesty of my answers and what they expose of my inner life. My answers stir me to redeem the time God is still allotting me. Some answers cause me to shout with a grateful heart when I see how wisely God led and is leading me, especially when I have been prone to go off on detours. So often He lovingly jerks my leash and sometimes not so gently guides me into His best ways. Always I am energized by God’s absolute goodness, generosity, and sovereign work in my life.