The Benefits of Aging
I woke up this morning with some kind of back problem, making movement difficult, especially after sitting. I don't know why, or if it has to do with aging, but today had been one of those days when I've been aware of my age.
The awareness has to do with this men's retreat where I'm speaking. Last night, on the first night, I looked around the room before getting up to speak and realized that there were men here from the island where I pastored for about 7 years, starting in 1984. We sat around tonight and talked together about all kinds of things - our life in Christ - life on the island - 'how is so and so doing?' and the state of the churches on the island. Somehow when it ended, we were all a bit choked up with the realization that, through all that each of has experienced over the years, in spite of our failures, God has remained faithful to us, and here we were, islanders and former islander, sharing Christ's life together for the weekend because Christ has been faithful to sustain us all these years.
It was dark when I left the other three guys and walked, alone, out onto the dock on the waterfront. The moon had just risen, in the glory of fulness, and her reflection was dancing on the water, as stars hung in the cloudless night. I walked, and looked up at the stars and thought of S, the crazy kid who was in about 8th grade when we arrived on the island and is now a school principle. And 'Father L' of the Anglican church, and oh that glorious building, when all 35 of us that were our church would gather there on Sunday nights for worship. Since it was 'Father L's' building, he and I become friends. How gracious he was with me! I thought of many many people from the island, and many stories - people coming to Christ, marriages healed, people walking away, marriages melting, joyous times, sorrowful times, hugely meaningful conversations with D as he battled cancer, and times of pettiness that drove me nuts. So many stories! I realize how little I knew back then, and how much I thought I knew; how foolish I was and how wise I thought I was; how afraid I was and bold I thought I was. Remembering brought this strange blend of joy and sorrow. There was joy because here we were - singing, praying, worshipping, serving, after all these years. There was sorrow because Christ's church, his body, of which we all are a part, is too much disconnected from her own head - too much taking her cues from prevailing cultural values. There's too much spiritual carnage out there as evidence that we're not doing a good job. There's a longing for fresh wind, living water, the bread of life, and the best wine to flow through us into our darkened world.
I sat on the dock and thought about what I'd been doing over the past 21 years. What a ride! So many stories of God's provision. So many people passing through our lives with whom we've exchanged so much. So much joy. So much celebration. So much sorrow. So much mourning. And somehow, these men from the island crystalized it for me so that I was feeling all of it at once tonight. I thanked God for the stories He's written in my life, thanked Him for lessons learned and wisdom gained, and offered myself afresh to Him, because if I've learned anything by looking back over the past 21 years, I've learned that the stories He writes are the best stories of all. I'm hoping He has a few more to write before it's over.
OUCH!!! Sitting to write this thing sure pains my again back.