“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age, I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:4
Today is my birthday, and while most birthdays in the Kaylor household involve a trip to Chipotle for burritos and a couple of small presents, this is a fairly big one for me. Fifty is a big number, but I’m happy to say that I don’t feel 50 today (as if one would know what it feels like). Yes, the AARP card will surely arrive soon. Yes, retirement is on the distant horizon (and yes, I’m paying more attention to my pension!). And, yes, the hair (what’s left of it) is gray-er. But rather than feeling “old,” today, I’m feeling grateful. The journey of life for me (so far) has been a real testimony to the verse above that God gave through Isaiah to the exiles of Judah–”I will carry and will save.” That’s been true for me since the beginning.
See, I was born as a mistake. I emerged into the world on December 1, 1963 at Booth Memorial Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA, a Salvation Army hospital for unwed mothers (long since closed). From what I could piece together through research and the help of a case worker at the adoption agency in Indiana County, PA, my birth mother was a 24 year old student and my birth father an officer in the Salvation Army–that’s right, a clergyman. They weren’t married, which means that I was the result of clergy misconduct. Since I found that out a few years ago, the irony has never failed to astonish me. God used a mistake to put me where I am today–a clergyman who carries his Word, but who also recognizes the frailty of human sin, perhaps more than most. I carry all those genes within me.
But I’m happy to say on this half century birthday that my life has not been a mistake. Oh, it hasn’t been easy. I lost my adoptive mother when I was only 14, an event that radically shaped my life and our family. I got adopted again by a friend’s family when my own family fell apart. If you’re counting, that’s three different families that have been part of my life. My family tree looks like a forest. Through all that joy and heartache, however, God was always present, even when in my anger I pushed him to the background. God didn’t leave me when I joined the Army and put my anger to Uncle Sam’s use. He didn’t leave me when I went to college and stopped really going to church. He was there when Jennifer and I got married, and brought us back to church together several years later. He used that as an occasion to call me out of the Army life and into ministry, where I’ve been ever since–a place where today I feel like I was destined to be all along. It was no mistake.
My life is evidence that God can take a mistake and bless it. When I look at my wonderful, patient, and fabulous wife, and my fantastic, talented, and hilarious children, I am thankful beyond measure. For all my teachers and professors, mentors and friends–I know I have been blessed to God to have them in my life. When I think about all the people I’ve worked with and had the privilege of pastoring over the past 20+ years, I pray that God has used what was once a great mistake to work all things better for God’s good in their lives.
Isaiah wrote the above verse to a people in exile, people whose situation in life was the result of a mistake. And yet, even when they were far from home, God declared that he was still there, as he had been from their birth as a people. I want to tell you today that the last fifty years for me is evidence that when God promises something, he always follows through. And now, as I turn a little grayer, I know he will still be carrying me into the future. After all, God never makes mistakes!
That’s what I’m celebrating today–AARP card or no!