Our family experienced an unusual fall season, which was highlighted by the birthday celebrations of two brand new octogenarians. And contrary to what some of you might think, I was not one of them! No, we had a huge family gathering to mark this milestone for my father and, a few weeks later, we had another for Carolyn’s mother.  

I’m not sure what your picture of an octogenarian is, but if it’s someone who is frail or failing, you haven’t met my father or mother-in-law. Truth be told, I pray my life will look something like theirs when I cross that same age threshold.  

My father, for his part, is busy as ever. He is active in his church, serving as chairman of the deacon board, teaching Bible study, playing the piano for services, regularly directing the choir, and other things too numerous to mention. He is an involved grandpa, great-grandpa and neighbor, mowing the lawns of the elderly people in the neighborhood. Unless, of course, it’s snowing. That’s when he clears their driveways!  And a few months ago he decided to take a little trip to visit family and friends where he ended up driving through 15 states covering several thousand miles — in his convertible! 

My mother-in-law also is constantly on the move. Not long before her birthday celebration, she spent 10 days traveling with a purpose to learn more about the Bible and grow in her Christian walk. She wants to keep growing, which will undoubtedly assist her with the new small group she just formed and hosts at her house! And a couple months from now, she will travel to south Texas to continue her annual practice of volunteering for several weeks with a mission agency.

I wrote earlier that I pray my life will be like my father and mother-in-law’s when I get to that same stage, but after sharing all they’re doing, I think I’ll need more rest!  

You would think a good verse to reflect on when considering the example of a couple octogenarians would be something about fighting the good fight and finishing the race like Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 9. However, I don’t think there’s any “finish” in these two. I’m picking a different verse. The one I like is Hebrews 12:1-2 that says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.”  

In each of the birthday celebrations, we heard reflections of eight decades gone by. While there were many blessings and happy memories to share, they each have stories of hardship and struggle when days were difficult and circumstances were heavy.  They each lost a lifetime spouse in the past couple years and there are health issues to battle.  But none of those trials have buried them. They have just shined a light on their perseverance in the race marked out for them.  

I am learning from their example and that of so many like them at Pathway Church. You don’t have to hit a big birthday to be inspirational. I look at the lives of people dealing with a terminal illness or unthinkable struggles and see the resolve to press on to greater heights, and it gives me strength and courage as well.  

As you face the challenges of your own life, don’t let them bury you either. Take the advice from Hebrews and “fix your eyes on Jesus.” That is the essential starting point, because He is the One who ran His own race with perseverance. As Hebrews 12:2 continues, it was, “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame.”  

Jesus has gone before us and has made a way, setting an example that we can follow. Our races are not all the same, but we’ve all been called to run, so let us do it with perseverance, fixing our eyes on Jesus.