This last week Kevin and I made the mistake of going to see a financial adviser. You see, with 40 now looming large on the horizon we figured we should probably meet with someone who could tell us how we are doing with our preparations for retirement. Yet somehow, this quickly turned into a rude awakening about death.
I reached out and grabbed one of the suckers from the bowl on the desk...watermelon...my favorite since I was kid.
Our adviser, a gentle-talking man with a warm smile that made you feel safe, began by just asking the routine questions you would expect: 401k this, Roth IRA that, and so on. All the while he was typing all this information into his computer that he said would run some calculations and let us know how things were looking. What he was really setting up was a Good Cop, Bad Cop scenario.
You might be expecting this to be a story about how no one ever saves enough for retirement, about how Kevin and I were shocked by the amount we needed to save. But this is not that story. Kevin and I attended our church's Financial Peace University class so that part actually went okay. The lessons we learned here are serving us pretty well. The problem was that evil, disgusting, and rude computer of his told me when I was going to die.
Yes, in an instant all that gentle-talking and warm smiling Good Cop adviser stuff was gone. Bad Cop computer was taking over now, and it popped it up right on the screen in a HUGE font so I was sure to see it: 25 working years, plus 29 retirement years. Add them up sir...it appears that barring any kind of violent early end or devastating cancer diagnosis that if all goes perfectly well you are still 6 feet under in about 50 years.
It seems to me that a place designed to deliver such unwelcome news should be accompanied by more than a bowl of dum-dums on the desk to salve your wounds. Have you ever wondered if those bowls of lollipops were some kind of passive-aggressive statement from the office workers? I can imagine there being some real satisfaction after dealing with a difficult person by ending the conversation by saying, "Want a dum-dum?" (you dumb-dumb).
Bad Cop probably enjoys tactics like that. "These numbers are just math, don't blame me," it says grinning and passing me a sucker. But maybe I am a dumb-dumb? Maybe I am a sucker?
As a Pastor, I know that death is just a part of life and that there are promises from God about what happens next. But as a normal human being, I'm a sucker. I'm a sucker for more years, more laughs, more fun, more...time.
I'm sure there are many folks who would trade their math for mine. After all, 50 years is a good amount of time to still have sitting on the Bad Cop's screen.
But I remind myself that I am dumb-dumb only if I fail to realize that the math has been the same my entire life. My current equation reads 25 + 29 = Life. This is nothing new. No reason to fret.
More importantly, I then remind myself (and you) that I am preparing for more than a long and healthy retirement. I'm doing a higher-level math than Bad Cop can even compute. This is not a death sentence. The very last word in the equation tells the whole story. This all adds up to life, not death.
As I crushed the last bits of watermelon sucker between my teeth, Good Cop adviser looked at us, "You guys are going to be okay," he said with that gentle, warm tone. Kevin grabbed my hand and we smiled at each other. He was right. We are more than okay.
Yes, in the math that matters, we are all more than okay.