By John D. Pierce

Recently, over dinner with friends since childhood, one of them asked reflectively: “When we were growing up could you have imagined your life turning out as it did?”

“No,” I said.

That seems to be one of many amazing things about life. We don’t simply chart a course in our youth and then mindlessly follow the route.

There are unplanned and unexpected twists and turns, an assortment of open and closed doors, and the ongoing discoveries of gifts and opportunities. The greatest asset seems to be an openness to learn and experience new things that contribute to who we are and are becoming.

For me, the goal is to find and embrace a balance between that which has long shaped my life and the free pursuit of becoming the person I might be. One doesn’t have to choose between one’s roots and one’s future; both can make important contributions.

I’m a nostalgic person who enjoys reflecting on those persons, institutions and other shaping factors in my life. But I do so with gratitude that I’m not stuck in the same mindset of the past.

For example, I still like pinto beans and cornbread (the primary entrée — though we didn’t use that word — for family meals) but not the ethnocentrism we also shared.

I still listen to Johnny Cash but find more insights now in “What is Truth?” and “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” than I did when the spinning records echoed in my younger ears.

I still get misty eyed when singing “Amazing Grace.” But I see God’s wide and loving embrace with far fewer restrictions than the ones assumed during my upbringing.

I want to be nostalgic but not stuck in the past.

Recently, Bruce Gourley and I were discussing the many things we seek to do through Nurturing Faith. Bruce rightly noted that these resources and experiences, while diverse in form and content, all provide for lifelong learning.

It’s up to us to decide if we’ll keep growing up or just grow old.

Speaking of Johnny Cash, yesterday I found a CD a publicist sent to me some years ago. It was a collection of hymns, including “Where We’ll Never Grow Old.”

In his rich baritone voice, he yearns for “a land on the far away strand,” which he has now found, “where we’ll never grow old.”

In this earthly meantime, however, we keep growing older — with the option of growing up as well.

It is wise to not stop growing until the end. There is way too much out there to be either learned, experienced or missed.

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