Ron Sider: Gratitude at 80 Years Old

On Saturday, June 22, my wife Arbutus and I had a party with family and friends to celebrate our 80th birthdays. (Hers is in March, mine in September).

I often say: “If you are 80 years old, love the Lord, love your wife, love your work, and your doctor says you are in good health, does it get any better than that?”

Gratitude, deep pervasive, persistent gratitude is my primary feeling as I reflect back on my almost 80 years on this gorgeous little planet. As I ponder those years, I realize that so much of what has made those years a joy has been sheer gift. For so many of those blessings, I did absolutely nothing.

…so much of what has made those years a joy has been sheer gift. For so many of those blessings, I did absolutely nothing.

I have had the immeasurable privilege of living in countries (Canada and the United States) where I never experienced the anguish of war and poverty. I had absolutely nothing to do with being born in peaceful, economically flourishing countries. Sheer gift.

I have enjoyed the gift of living in places where I enjoyed the gift of religious and political freedom. Brave ancestors had born the cost of fighting for those gifts. I hope I did my part to preserve those precious treasures, but I did absolutely nothing to create them. Again, sheer gift.

I have enjoyed the gift of being born to a wonderful mother and father who loved the Lord, loved each other dearly, and cared lovingly and wisely for their children. What a gift—sheer gift, since I had nothing to do with having those wonderful people as my parents.

The best gift has been being born into a family and church tradition that taught me from childhood to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ the Lord. I just had to say yes to Christ’s amazing offer of salvation. Sheer gift.

The best gift has been being born into a family and church tradition that taught me from childhood to know, love and serve Jesus Christ the Lord.

I have also been blessed with the wonderful gift of a wise, strong, loving woman who has walked and grown with me in a marriage of 58 years. And together we have been blessed with three wonderful children and seven grandchildren.

I guess Arbutus and I can claim a little of the credit for a good marriage. We did have to make important decisions to be faithful and grow together. But at the hardest time in our marriage, it was biblical teaching about life-long marriage, a gifted Christian marriage counselor, and the Risen Lord’s presence and power that enabled us to get through the hard years and go on to enjoy decades of mutual joy and blessing. A divine gift.

And as for the many wise choices of our children, I will not presume to take credit!

I have traveled and studied the world. I know how much pain, agony and hell so many people experience: the horrors of war, the agony of poverty, the shackles of oppression. Again, through no fault of their own, people were simply born in vastly more wrenching contexts than I was. I have devoted much of my life to trying to end those evils; to help more people enjoy the peace, freedom and economic well-being I have enjoyed. I wish I could have done more. And at 80, I will continue to do what I can.

I hope that an awareness that so much of my life has been sheer gift will empower me to continue to work for shalom for everyone—until the day my Lord welcomes me to the other side.

Ron Sider is the Founder and President Emeritus of Christians for Social Action. Subscribe to his free blog here!

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