Today is a day that brings up a lot of feelings for me. It's mostly a day for memories, most of them really great. But there are painful memories as well. For better or worse, I tend to get introspective on days like this, assessing where I've been and where I'm going. In taking a step backward I've become acutely aware of one thing: I am still full of competitive fire, the same fire Becky and I shared through 37 blessed years of marriage, though now that fire inhabits the heart of a single man. I'm chomping at the bit to take on new goals that I don't know are within my capabilities, goals that come with the real possibility of failure or embarrassment, like when I married Becky or when I enrolled at the University of Basel for my doctorate or when I wrote books that I seriously questioned any publisher would want to look at or when I ran races where the results were far from certain, races where I was in way over my head, where the possibility of failure was real. Through this process of loss and doubt it's become clear to me that what drives me every moment of every day isn't winning or the accomplishment per se but the challenge to be all that God has created me to be and to become a really good steward of all he has entrusted to me. Nothing ignites me more than the thrill of the great unknown and finding purpose in everything in my life. But there's also a dark side to all of this. When you take on a challenge -- say, the challenge of a marriage or a career -- you take enormous risks. I joke with people that, as a teacher, I've been "put out to pasture" and have achieved "legendary" status. But when I'm honest with myself, that status is very uncomfortable for me. It makes me feel useless and unwanted, like I've been relegated to sitting on the sidelines reminiscing about the "glory" days of old, which is a notion I absolutely detest. And if I ask myself WHY I feel this way, it's because I know that, at the deepest level of reality, I am dispensable, and that life has its seasons and we somehow have to learn to let things take their course. Still, the craving for significance, the need for challenge, never dies. That's one reason I'm more excited than ever to get back into the ultramarathon arena, a bloodied, aging warrior still seeking an experience that will test his abilities and endurance. And in opening myself to new vistas, I feel alive. I want to be in the arena for as long as I live, even when I'm old and washed up, because the Lord never writes us off and neither should we. I want to be that 70 year old still running ultras or that 80 year old still doing triathlons or that 90 year old still running 5Ks. If "consumed with winning" was Dave 1.0, I guess "consumed with challenges" has been Dave 2.0. I can't even imagine what Dave 3.0 will be like.
I can't find the right words to say how grateful I am for all Becky was to me, not least in her example as one who passionately lived life TO THE MAX, both for the Lord and for others. And you know what? I'm not afraid of loss any more. In fact, I've learned to embrace it. I cannot find the words to adequately express the magic that happens when you learn to enjoy the memories of the past while anticipating the joys of the future.
To Becky: Happy 69th Birthday, sweetheart.
And to all of you: Cheers to big things ahead. See you in Dave 3.0.