Thursday, December 20, 2007

Changing Decades

Reflections from my journal. The two pictures are ten years apart.

I turn 30 tomorrow. While I am certainly not old yet, I am no longer young. I know that it sounds odd, but this change of decades has caught me by surprise. I didn't really see myself as older, in fact my idea of myself hasn't changed much in the last decade. While the decade from ten to twenty contains necessary change from child to adult, this next decade was more like the simple passage of days that suddenly added up to another decade without being aware of aging. While I have certainly had new experiences and learned new things, I am psychologically, physically, and mentally not very different from that twenty year old—not enough to feel ten years older. This combined with the rapid gestation of our first child, and my first real job as an independent MD, has created a sense of suddenly finding myself much older.

Perhaps it is due to a culture that glorifies youth and fears aging, but I had really grown attached to my idea of myself as a “young man.” Being a young adult allows one to be idealistic, hold strange ideas, and act eccentrically, write fiction, and wear worn and torn clothes—all acceptable and expected in young men, but a bit silly for a grown man. And what is one to do about this surprising loss of youth? Nothing is more pitiful than an adult who tries to seem young by dressing or talking like young people. I must accept that I am no longer young and attempt aging with grace—realizing that 40, 50, 60, etc. will likely overtake me with similar stealth.

These sorts of thoughts make me question how I have used my time. While based on average life expectancies I still have over half my life ahead of me and I am hopefully still far from the stage of unavoidable physical and mental decline, I have passed the freest of decades now. As a father and practicing physician much of my time from now will not be my own.

Myself as a twenty-year-old would have expected to do more over this decade. I would have expected at this point to have done more to make the world better, to have written some important book, and to have a deeper relationship with God. Instead I find myself with a job, a mortgage, accumulating things I don't need, thinking more about my own desires and comfort than about what is right and true.

There is good reason to stop and reflect at thirty. Too often ideals and hopes fade as we age. The Baby Boomers were right to not trust anyone over thirty—look how sold out and self-absorbed they became as they aged! Aging is inevitable as long as life goes on. I can only hope that the apathy, atrophy, and closed-mindedness won't be necessary side effects of becoming older.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Death & Christmas

This is a poem I wrote in Haiti after watching a newborn baby (the one in the picture) die. I hope it doesn't lessen your joy of Christmas, but perhaps deepen joy with a perspective we all need: the understanding that our hope was bought with a price.

The Incarnation

Why did I ever come forth from the womb to look on trouble and sorrow, so that my days have been spent in shame? -Jeremiah 20:18

Unto us a child is born
Unto us a son is given.
Born of blood,
Born to bleed.
Born into the cold
Born into squalor
Among the filth of animal feces
On the coldest night of the year
Night air carries distant moaning,
The bitter moaning of death vigils.
Many die on such a night.

...and the bloody infant
Miserable yellow jaundice.
Wrap the infant tight,
Lay him shivering in the hay
To be bitten by lice and fleas
And bored through by parasites.
He whines and writhes,
Vomits, then shakes in quiet agony
But the child will not die tonight...

He will live to know more agony
The suffering life of a dirty peasant,
Building with broken hands.
Born of suffering,
Born to suffer.
And pitiful, muffled cries draw
Men of the fields,
ugly and reeking,
Bringing infection to the infant.
Unto us a sickly child is born,
Unto him the plague is given
And the infection of us all
Will be upon his shoulders.
But the wretched one will not die tonight...

He will live to know more agony
To die tormented and alone,
Rather than here in his mother’s arms.
Brought to life this night
Brought to life to die.
In the wretchedness
Of this yellow, shivering body:
Here is the only hope
Of peace and salvation.

Unto us a sickly infant is born.
Through suffering hope is born.
And the weight of the world
Will be upon his shoulders.
And Death will be upon his shoulders
Tremble before your newborn Savior.

…and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.