During our life’s journey we need to occasionally stop and ponder on the direction we have traveled and what lies ahead. There are watershed moments defined by events such as graduation, marriage or the birth of our children. Other moments occur at a certain age. Most have the ominous 0 in the second numeral – 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Others earmark a rite of passage such as obtaining a driver’s license, the legal drinking age or the right to vote.
I will soon obtain that golden phase which Social Security refers to as FRA, Full Retirement Age. It seems an appropriate time to take stock of my life and make an appraisal of where I have been and where I am going.
Long term goals have suddenly become shorter, and short-term plans need to be completed immediately or discarded. Priorities have changed and my abilities, both physical and mental, dictate my goals for the years that lie ahead.
An older friend once told me that as he got older, he began to wear out the soles of his shoes faster. I didn’t get it at first but as I “shuffle” towards my mid-60’s I can appreciate his wry comment.
Last spring, I wrote an article describing my experience at a training program I had just completed. It involved understanding personality types and how to deal with conflict as well as “self-care”. The young ministers, fresh out of seminary, were excited and enthusiastic about the technique, anxious to use them in their promising pastoral careers. Older guys like me struggled with the new concepts, confused by the terminology and ideas that just wouldn’t click in our Cretaceous Period brains. I felt that if this is what I had to learn to continue in ministry, perhaps it was time to step aside and let the younger warriors take over.
The problem is, there isn’t enough of them and I not quite ready to stop sharing my passion for the Lord. I can clearly see that the role of the church and its ministers are changing. The issue of homosexuality will divide our church. Modern worship with contemporary music and liturgy will supplant the rich traditional rites of the past. Scripture will remain the foundation of our understanding of God. However, our discernment of scripture will be shaped by the political and cultural forces of the present age. I embrace those changes, knowing that Jesus brought change to the stoic and settled philosophies of the Pharisees. Rejecting the alchemist and medical practitioners of ancient times, we must apply new ways to share God’s Grace with the world.
Ancient scriptures command us to “not sow your field with two kinds of seed; nor shall you put on a garment made of two different materials.” (Leviticus19:19) We are told that a rebellious son shall be stoned by “all the men of the town… So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid.” (Deuteronomy 21:21) While relevant in ancient cultures, we need to understand that God has given us new insight and knowledge to move from the laws of the past to the promise of the future.
It is imperative that we each pause on our journey to reappraise the true purpose of our lives and of God’s intentions. Our priorities change as we change. Still some things remain unswerving, becoming bedrock in our journey of faith. While we may not possess the stamina of our youth and the mind’s alacrity lessen, our faith has grown stronger and we see more clearly with dimming eyes the truth of God’s purpose.
Hopefully we can confirm the eternal truth which Jesus quoted from the Hebrew Bible, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:5-6) The commandment from Leviticus also runs deep and true, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)
I am confidant that the younger generation will uphold and declare these universal truths with more passion, sincerity and enthusiasm then I can muster. Still I would like to continue to share in the message of our savior, even as I wear out the soles of my shoes.