Last night at various times during the night I had some sharp sudden chest pains. They hit, woke me up and left again. I don't think it is anything serious but it gets you thinking. My dad died in his late forties because of heart troubles, I have medication for high blood pressure and have been told that I may have an enlarged heart. All this means that in the middle of the night when chest pains hit, you begin to wonder. After initially worrying about the prospects of a heart attack, I then realised that I could do nothing about it. (I could hardly rush to the emergency department and say, "I had this pain for a few seconds, it's not there now, but what is it?") I got to thinking about my life. What if I was hit by a heart attack? Maybe it would mean the end of my energetic lifestyle and my activities would be curtailed? Or maybe it could be the end of me? That led me to reviewing my life to date.
I decided that I have few regrets. I would like to have read and studied more but other things would have had to suffer if I did that. I wished I was more encouraging toward my children, but I don't think I was too nasty. As I looked back on my life I guess I would have to say that I lived well. Of course if I had my current understandings about life, God, Jesus etc. when I was in my twenties, I would have done things a lot differently. But this understanding has developed through the journey, and does not happen all at once. I can be happy that at each stage of life I generally lived by the light that I then knew... I hope that continues. Throughout I have kept growing and trying out new and different thoughts and things. There was a year or two when I stagnated, partly because you have to "dumb-down" your sermons etc. to communicate with people, I was working with another minister with different ideas, so I tended to just coast for a while, not rocking my boat or my relationship with him. But I am happy to say that, in general, my dissatisfaction has continued to make me review again and again my world view, keep on redrawing my "maps" and try new ways of doing things and seeing things. To the younger folks reading this I would say, whatever you do keep growing intellectually, inwardly and outwardly.
In my time I have experienced different styles of living. I lived as a tradesman. I lived as a student. I lived as a conventional minister. I traveled and lived in a caravan doing a different style of work. I played with rural life, simple life-style and self-sufficiency and have taken some of these values on board. I tried a venture that failed, lived as a hardware salesman briefly and was part of an editorial team once. I have been a square peg in a round hole minister for the last 20 odd years. I studied community and social work issues and have built that into my ministry. I am enjoying industrial chaplaincy. I have enjoyed involvement in the community through PTA, coaching children's sport, Habitat for Humanity, Night Shelter and various church activities.
I have had, and still have a few close friendships, a long supportive and affirming marriage, but never ever had a big number of friends. I have a family of adult children who are doing OK, are independent thinkers, relating responsibly and who love and care for one another. I know that I have been lucky enough to contribute in a constructive way to other people's lives. I have had the privilege of being with people at special moments. I have enjoyed times of solitude.
Maybe if my time was up now I would have to say I would loved to have tramped more, cycled more, gardened more or played with wood or metal. I would love to have painted and/or photographed more.
But one thing I have learned is that you cannot do everything or have everything you want in life. Another thing is that life has it's moments and stages. Sometimes you can do some things, at other times they have to go on the back burner while other ventures or priorities capture your attention.
Of course there are a few regrets, mistakes and "what if" questions... but last night in the face of my chest pains, I came to the conclusion that I hadn't done too bad, and as I say, generally lived by the light I have seen at that point of time, have always been open to more light and have continued to grow in life's journey.
Today I have energetically dug a nearly 19 square meter patch of ground and gone on a 25 k bike ride so I doubt my time is up yet. Probably it was reflux or damaged ligaments near my ribs from my Saturday Habitat activities. But it made me think and in some weird way gave me peace of mind. If my time was up, I'd definitely say, "Bugger!" But I would be reasonably happy with what I've done and how I've done it.
Photo: building a back door step at the Habitat house.