Our last night near the end of orientation and security training prompted one of my newest friends to suggest that three of us enjoy dinner together for old time’s sake. The Italian cafe we chose was closed for a private party, so we drove downtown to a popular local hamburger joint, only to find it closed on Monday nights. The Mellow Mushroom seemed our next best and nearest option, but we couldn’t locate a place to park. Out of more familiar options, we settled for Casa Something-Or-Other, a safe bet assuming they would at least have tolerable chips and salsa, even if the food was a bust. I glanced left and right and spotted more than a few college students from nearby Appalachian State University, a good sign on two counts–flavor and cost.
We sat there like a scene from our own version of the Three Amigos; the members of this trio are as dissimilar as could be. One of us stands out because he is a college hall of fame football player who stands six feet five inches tall and retains a muscular frame. The second member is a salt and pepper crew cut pilot with matching mustache and reading glasses dangling in front of his chest. I am the shortest guy whose hair is much-too-rapidly thinning on top, making hats more a necessity these days than a fashion accessory. In the process of casually chatting about our new employment and familial contexts, I learned that I had the oldest child, the most grandchildren, and held the dubious distinction of being oldest of the group. It was, in a word, sobering. The bad news is that in group settings these days, increasingly, I find myself the eldest participant. The good news is that I feel much younger than I look. The best news is that advanced age offers a suitable vantage point for honest evaluation.
A multitude of tortilla chips and two chimichangas later, my seasoned pilot friend posed a considerable question: What are the most important lessons we’ve learned in life? While listening to my companions share their thoughts, I considered some conclusions of my own. Sometimes I wish I could go back and start all over again; at other times I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Either way, I’m old enough that such thoughts matter. When my time came to respond, I drew four conclusions, and leave them as a catalyst for your own meditation:
1. Surrender to God is the surest path to a life that counts for something.
2. The love of a godly woman is to be valued and nurtured far above any other earthly affection.
3. An authentically loving family provides both a sacred refuge from the damaging winds that life blows our way, and a secure launch pad from which to dare to implement dreams.
4. Grace is always present tense.