Reflections on a spiritual journey by a senior citizen:
If you are an old guy like me you might recall that back in 1966 the Rolling Stones had a song called “Mother’s Little Helper”. The refrain of it was this: “What a drag it is getting old”. As you get older you get all sorts of aches and pains and things you never imagined when you were younger.
Just yesterday the surgeon called to tell me about my wife’s latest operation – it went well. So I went to visit her after that call. But it is part of a year-long cancer struggle she has been involved in. As I keep saying, with two years of Covid lockdown madness and now a year of this (with no end in sight), it has been a bit of a long haul of late.
So old age brings on new challenges and new problems. I say all this because I just turned 100. Well, not quite. I turned 70, but that is pretty close, it seems to me! This is just a short piece offering a few reflections on what it is like to be an ancient of days kinda guy.
One thing that happens is this: All those phrases and sayings you heard a million times when you were young – but went in one ear and out the other – of course take on real meaning as you start to age. Phrases such as:
-‘If you got your health you got everything.’
-‘You’re only as old as you feel.’
-‘Don’t take things for granted (loved ones, your health, etc).’
Now I think about those things all the time. You take the dog for a walk and notice that your knees are not doing as well as they used to. You have a whole lot more visits to the doctor and even to hospitals. You start taking pills for various ailments. The old punishments you had when you were young (‘stay home, no parties for you,’ etc) are now seen as welcome relief! You attend fewer weddings and more funerals as well.
But it is the sense of how you have done as a Christian that really starts to occupy your attention. Often this can involve looking back with some regret, realising how much time you wasted on unessential things, trivial pursuits, and selfish ambitions. As I often say, the title of Malcolm Muggeridge’s 1972-73 autobiography always seems to apply to me: Chronicles of Wasted Time.
Hindsight as they say is always so much more accurate. You look back over your life and you think of all that you could have done differently. You realise you should have been much further ahead on your Christian journey. You recall all the times you were selfish and self-centred, and how often you hurt others, and were far from what you should be as a Christ-follower.
Sure, we need to have a well-rounded perspective on these things and not get overly introspective and morbid. As a quote from Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it that I shared yesterday: “We must not concentrate overmuch upon our feelings. Do not spend too much time feeling your own pulse taking your own spiritual temperature, do not spend too much time analyzing your feelings. That is the high road to morbidity.” https://billmuehlenberg.com/2023/01/25/25-key-quotes-on-emotions-and-feelings/
But regular spiritual checkups are important. We do not want to over-analyse ourselves to death, nor do we want to be cavalier and superficial about the sort of progress (or lack thereof) we are making in the Christian life. Using milestones like birthdays or anniversaries can be one way to conduct such spiritual reviews.
So with this milestone (and my brother just reminded me that with my twin sis we are really 140 right now!), I have been thinking a bit about what has happened thus far and what might lie ahead. One obvious point is the reality that I am getting old and will not be around forever (and for some of you that might be good news!).
So the thought of wanting to leave a legacy for Christ and the Kingdom grows more pressing. With that in mind, I can list a few things that I have done over the years. They include:
-With so much writing going on, post 6118 articles (so far) on my website.
-With so much interaction on the site, post 86,672 comments (so far).
-With so many books collected over 50 years, get many reviewed (659 so far)
-With tens of thousands of quotes collected over 50 years, start putting them out as articles (58 so far).
-With so many interviews, get many on YouTube (101 so far posted)
Other things include speaking, teaching, putting in submissions, and so on. But that just tells you a bit about what I have DONE. More important of course is who I AM and what I am becoming. The good news is, I am better than I once was, but I still have such a long way to go. We never stop learning and growing in the school of Christ, and I am so far from where I should be.
As I often say, if I were God I would have given up on this Bill character long ago. I would have expected much more from him over all these years. I would have expected a 70-year-old who was a Christian for around 51 years to be a lot further along, spiritually speaking.
But all I can fall back on is this: it is a good thing I am not God. It is a good thing he is so overwhelmingly patient, forgiving, forbearing and gracious. It is only because of his great grace and mercy that he has stood by me all these years, despite all my failures, selfishness and sin. Amazing grace indeed.
Oh, and one more thing: in my morning reading I did come upon a verse that seems to apply to me (and others like me). It comes from Leviticus 19:32: “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man.” I am gray alright, and old! Praise God for his faithfulness in this lengthy journey.
And on a personal note, please shoot up a prayer for my wife who cannot be with me today, as she is still in hospital after another surgery dealing with her ongoing cancer battle. Many thanks.