50 year cake

The Dangers of Turning 50

The Dangers of Turning 50

-an article for the September 2004 Deep Cove Crier

I will never forget back in 1977, while doing my Master’s Degree, when a fellow student told me that he was in early middle-age.  I was flabbergasted that he was so old, until I found out that he was actually only thirty-two years old!  The U.S. Census Bureau defines middle age from 45 to 64.  So by that definition, I have just over 4 years until I reach the middle of middle age! 

I recently read a health article entitled: “Ouch: Baby Boomers’ Knees Reach Middle Age”.  The author observed that ‘The 77 million-strong "baby boom" generation in North America born between 1946 and 1964 is discovering middle age, and along with it knee problems made worse (or at least more obvious) by lifestyles that stay vigorous well into the later years.’  I have noticed that everything that we do as baby boomers, we tend to act as if we have just invented it. 

I just turned age 50 on August 22nd, and I have to tell you that I have been looking forward to this for a long time.  Some people dread turning 50.  I couldn’t wait.  The highlight of my turning 50 was a surprise birthday party with my friends, families, and parishioners from St. Simon’s.  I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. There was such a wonderful sense of love and joy among the birthday party people.  I have taken many funerals over the past 24 years of ordained ministry.  When I hear the funeral eulogies from family members, I often wish that I had known the deceased better.  Many people often wait until the loved one is dead to say how much they loved him.  I often wonder: “Why wait?’  Hearing the kind comments about myself at my 50th made me feel like I was at my funeral without having to die. 

Some people fear that life is over at 50.  Quite frankly I feel like it is just beginning for me at age 50.  With a new bishop, the Right Reverend TJ Johnston, and a new Canadian Anglican alliance http://acicanada.ca/ , I feel like I have begun a brand new phase in my life and ministry.  The doors have been opened wide.  The shutters have been taken off the windows.  At age 50, I feel like one of the early Canadian pioneers striking out into unknown, exciting territory.  Bishop Chuck Murphy said to us last year that there are two kinds of people: pioneers and settlers.  Pioneers are willing to take risks and try something new. Settlers prefer to play it safe and stay at home.  Turning 50 has convinced me that it wouldn’t work for me to just be a settler, waiting for something to happen.  I could wait for ever.  Rather I need to seize the moment, conquer the dragons, and not wait for someone else to solve my problems for me.

One of my favorite mentors, Dr. E. Stanley Jones, entered his 50’s by deciding that it would be the most fruitful decade of his life, and it was.  When he became age 60, age 70, and then age 80, he decided the same thing once again, and it was.  The nonsense about ‘freedom 55’ sells people short.  E. Stanley Jones reminds people in his 28 books that there is no such thing as retirement from a biblical perspective.  Retreading, recycling, repositioning, yes.  But we can never retire from being fruitful in life and making a lasting difference. “Never retire”, said Jones, “change your work. The human personality is made for creation; and when it ceases to create, it creaks, and cracks, and crashes.”

In his million-plus best-selling book ‘Abundant Living’, E. Stanley Jones presented a ladder for middle age, including the hidden pitfalls. Firstly, Jones said: “Watch for decaying enthusiasms and ideals.  Look out for a desire for softness and comfort.”  Jones warned that in our middle age, we are ‘very liable to settle down, become safe – and decay’.  Secondly, he encouraged us middle-agers to ‘watch the growing power of money’ over us.  Thirdly, he encouraged us to ‘watch the growing power of the crowd upon us’.  “In middle age,” says Jones, “we cease being different, take on protective resemblance to our environment, fit into the crowd – and die of suffocation”.  Fourthly, he encouraged us to watch out for the sexual mid-life crisis that destroys many marriages. Fifthly Jones encouraged us to ‘watch our middle’.  There are four signs of approaching age, said Jones: “baldness, bifocals, bridges and bulges!”  Sixthly Jones encouraged us to ‘remain a hero to our children’.  Always keep growing, learning, and reaching out.  And finally Dr. Jones encouraged us middle-agers to ‘keep a living center – God – amid all the changes. 

My 50-year old prayer for those reading this article is that each of us will choose an abundant life that comes from the abundant giver, Jesus of Nazareth.

The Reverend Ed Hird

Rector, St. Simon’s North Vancouver


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