There is a poignant scene towards the end of The Return of the King where Frodo, Sam, Pippin and Merry–now returned from their long adventure–are sitting in a pub, mug in hand. The place is a buzz. Smiles and laughter abound. Everyone is having a good time. Everyone except for the four. They gaze about, noticing the carefree attitude of the patrons, but they cannot summon the same. They’ve been through too much. They’ve experienced things they would have never expected. They’ve seen things they wish they never had seen. They had done things they wish they wouldn’t have done. They had said things they wish they hadn’t said. It had been a rough go-of-it. They were now somber. They were a bit more serious. Frivolity didn’t quite attract their interest anymore. They had grown up.
I am sitting at the same table.
Today is my fiftieth birthday. We are celebrating as a family, making a memory for the kids. And–like the hobbits–I am a bit more sober. I, too, have seen death. I’ve experienced difficult days and seasons. I’ve seen things I wish I had not seen. I’ve done things I should not have done. I’ve said things I should not have said. My adventure hasn’t always been an easy one either. But I have survived. I sit here this morning with a mug in my hand. The green of the Shire surrounds me.
Frodo may have left on the boat, but Sam returned to his wife and children. Life went on. Sam dug in and loved his family. That is my intention as well. The majority of my adventures are in the past. My Army days are a distant memory. My pursuit of academic degrees is finished. I am done climbing mountains. Any hope of earthly glory has diminished. I have dug in. I am loving my family.
Several years ago, I heard of someone here in Dayton that left his wife and children because the responsibility was too much to bear. Rather than dig in, he ran. That’s not my way. In fact, it’s not the way of the Wehse men. We are far from perfect, but one of our strengths is endurance. We stay.
Whatever mid-life crisis I experienced is over. Thankfully, it did not include another car or another woman. I did not need to start over. God had given me too much for me to think I lacked anything for my happiness. I am a truly blessed man. I am a recipient of special and common grace. God is both my Savior as well as my Heavenly Father. He has given me two glorious books to teach me that He is great and greatly to be praised–The Word of God and creation. He has blessed me with many sweet memories and a future too glorious to conceive.
And He has given me today.
Today–my fiftieth birthday; a day in which to celebrate God’s grace with my wonderful wife and five children who still look up to me and think I am funny.
It’s going to be a good day; a good day indeed.