When I was getting started in my profession, I used to wonder what happened to preachers when they got old. (In those days, “old” meant somewhere in the 40s. I have since recalculated.) I supposed that old preachers, like old soldiers, did not die; they just faded away. Now that I have reached middle age, I am getting my answers.

Not that I am old. (As I mentioned before, I have recalculated.) True, I can no longer sign John 8:57 after my name (“Thou art not yet fifty years old”), but there are plenty of other verses to choose from. My friends who own pocket calculators tell me that nobody can know when he is at middle age until he knows how long he will live. But even if the Lord graciously grants me fourscore years, I am still past that midpoint, and that makes me a middle-aged minister.

Dante found himself “in a dark wood” when he arrived at “the middle of the road of life,” but it was his own fault. He admitted that he “strayed from the straight path.” Byron had nothing good to say about the middle years: “That horrid equinox, that hateful section / Of human years, that half-way house, that rude / Hut …” His experienced estimate was that our middle years are the time “when we hover between fool and sage.” I think Byron must have followed Dante off the straight path.

Not that middle age doesn’t have its special problems. Bob Hope once defined middle age as that time of life “when your age starts to show around your middle.” My wife told me that swimming was good for my figure, and I asked her if she had ever looked at a duck’s figure. Many golfers I know are tediously overweight, and I don’t golf anyway. ...

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