I guess it is all how you look at it! I was thinking about all my losses and began to enumerate them in my mind. Death and failure and drastic change. I found myself wanting to dive for a ball my grandson had hit toward me as I realized that I was well past the ‘diving’ stage of my life. There are an awful lot of losses in life, if you live long enough. But then I began to recount the gains: lives that had been touched and transformed by God through our ministry, a grandson to play ball with, and another on the way. I so enjoy seeing our children as fine adults. I have new appreciation for God’s nature and love to photograph it!
These are tremendous gains that I would never want to give up even in exchange for those things I have lost.
I do not enjoy being ‘fragile’. It is a big adjustment, but I realise I (in fact all of us) have always been fragile and my ‘invincibility’ was but a sad illusion.
If then, it is all in how you look at it, the battle for satisfying life is in the transformation of our minds, just like Romans 12 suggests.
As I dwell on the feelings of loss what I am doing is forgetting that God is good. He empties my life of childish things in order to make room for the grander things of his design. This is not to say that certain losses like deaths are not to be properly grieved, but rather that even as we mourn we can experience comfort in God’s goodness.
I find myself saying to myself (sometimes you need an intelligent conversation) “This growing old is not for the faint of heart!” Life is full of losses up to the final loss of this mortal life, but mortality makes way for immortality!
Losses are not all temporary though many are. Losses make room for a grander plan.
I have decided to try and look at things differently. Rather than just bemoan my losses (I am realistic enough to know I am unlikely to stop that completely) I will see that God is making room in my life for more not less. I know that one day even death will be swallowed up in victory. The whole trajectory of life and history is to the fullness of the coming Kingdom. I have decided that I am better off contemplating that Kingdom than lamenting the fading of this one.
I did not know it at the time, but I grew up in a golden age of oratory. Soaring speeches filled with eloquence and soaring poetic imagery were regular. I recall John Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Junior and their speeches full of grand images and inspiring cadence. I took it for granted that this was the norm, but alas it is not. This time was an aberration! Nevertheless, they affected me greatly. I grew to love language. I grew to appreciate a well-turned phrase. I admired the ability to move people and call them to be greater and do better.
As a young Christian I admired great preachers who fell into this same category. I was drawn to the sermons of Charles Spurgeon “The Prince of Preachers” who could strike a theme and paint a picture and draw huge crowds and move them to respond to his Kingdom call. I discovered other preachers to admire. One such was Stephen Olford. I took my family to Memphis to study under him. We camped in a KOA during tornado season (Our tent was blown down in such a tempest.) He was, to me, a poet, and a preacher whose oratory drew and inspired people. I longed to be like him!
I never became a Spurgeon or an Olford, though I learned much from both. I realise, in my seventh decade, that I was not created or gifted to be them but to simply be me.
For the past few months, I have been unable to do my usual Bible Studies and have instead posted three such studies a week, on Facebook. This has given me a chance to listen to myself and to get feedback from others. One comment from someone I do not know to someone I barely know said “ He is so quiet and laid back letting the scriptures speak for themselves.” I was at once inordinately flattered and taken aback. My lifelong goal had not been to be a ‘laid back’ Perry Como of preachers! Somewhere along the way God had sidetracked me. My imagined soaring pulpit pounding rhetoric had been replaced and replaced by a quiet hemming and hawing simplicity.
Unlike my heroes I will never be held up as a ‘master’ preacher, but I feel quite comfortable in my shoes. I confess to being a slow learner but now I want to be authentic much more than soaring. I want to let the Holy Spirit do the task of inspiring, for that is the very function of the Spirit.
The moral of the story is this: God cares less about our ability, than our authentic availability. Perhaps others can be less slow to learn this valuable lesson