By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R
At age 29 and on the cusp of 30, I made a momentous decision symbolized by the use of green ink. Everyone needs something like a green-ink moment of decision. Some moments mean more than all the others because they mean arriving at a decision, forming a conviction, and color-inking all life with a constant reminder. My green-ink moment of 50 years ago still indelibly tattoos God’s will on my soul!
Context for my green-ink decision. Before I go further, you need a context for what I’m about to say. For a summary and to save space, let me point out that Jesus was born in God’s chosen moment of time and didn’t start His formal ministry until about age 30. What did Jesus do for those first 30 years? The Bible lets us know Jesus was growing at age 12 and ready to get busy about the Father’s will. Though I was only human and sinful, at age 30, and still am, I too had been born in a moment of time, had become aware of God’s call, and prepared. So what? Within my young pastor’s heart lay a holy discontent and sense that my 30s were a time for me to re-map my understanding of God’s calling and live a G-O-A-L: a God/Goal-Oriented Life (Philippians 3:12-15).
But like resolutions, goals are meaningless without commitment and reminders. The goals I wrote that day in green ink as a reminder numbered 10 measurable ones. That began 50 years of a G-O-A-L that continues today to force me to listen to God, hear, decide, and act. Moses got his call at 80 — after 40 palace years and 40 shepherd years. I can hardly wait till I turn 80 and listen for God’s next step in my calling.
Fifty years of writing life’s next chapters. Well, unless you’ve known me well for the last 50 years or have read all my writings, you wouldn’t believe what God has done in and through this ole West Texas boy’s life. It’s a spiritual Forrest Gump story. I say that by way of testimony and not to point to self. Rather, the all boldfaced, all caps, italics with an exclamation mark say, “TO GOD BE THE GLORY!” But the green-ink story and stewardship of God’s calling isn’t over yet. I’m still as responsible to God for growing as at age 30 and all of life.
You are too! Folks tend to live life by the calendar and do their planning by the ordinary seasons of life and what they feel led to do or want to do. Besides most folks wanting to live a meaningful life, they also tend to focus heavily on a finish line that we refer to as retirement. Today, folks worry because the finish line seems to keep moving around on them based on money mostly — but also health, downsizings, etc. Still, retirement as one kind of finish line, tends to say, “I’ve worked. Now let’s party!” Nothing wrong with enjoying the fruit of your labor. Nothing wrong with it, that is if you still look and listen for God’s will every day and sign your name to it in green ink.
A mountaintop reevaluation in 2015! Last summer my two siblings and our mates had one of the grandest mini-family reunions you could imagine! Brother-in-law Dave and sister Marylyn hosted us in southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. They own what I’ll call a “heritage” cabin that is pretty much a mansion on a hilltop. Lynn Rutland is their summer pastor at the San Juan Mountain Church nearby. Sunday morning six of us — sibs and mates — visited the church. Pastor Lynn and I had only met over the phone and some emails. I had sent him some of my books for the church’s reading table. But Lynn hugged me like a brother.
Lynn noticed I had a copy of my retirement book titled Life’s Best Chapter: Retirement in my hand. He said, “Johnnie, I’m glad you brought that book. I was hoping you would agree to take part with me in my sermon this morning, which is from the last chapter in that book. I happily agreed. Worship. Lynn poured his sermon foundation in a few minutes. Then he told the folks the two of us would sit on stools while he interviewed me for the message. Lynn’s a master at interview. Besides evoking my joys and blessings, he concluded with a question. He said, “Johnnie, I noticed the copyright on your book is 2000. Besides joys and blessings, you’ve been through some hard times in the last 15 years. Now, would you still say retirement is life’s best chapter?” My mind’s quick flashback over the parallel tracks of joy and grief overcame me. Choked with emotion, I was silent with tears. My sibs and their mates were silent with tears. Lynn didn’t say a word. He knew to wait. Finally, in good voice, I said, “Yes, Lynn, despite the death of a son and other griefs along with the joys, I would still say retirement is life’s best chapter!” He invited others to have a green-ink moment and to move toward or on into life’s best chapter by saying yes to God’s call.
— Copyright by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.