Since my last post, I’ve been thinking about the way we’re all compelled to experience new eras in our lives. The last is like the first; we’ve never dwelt there before.
From the moment of birth, a baby is unknowingly faced with challenges: breathing air, moving in a larger space, as well as learning to walk and talk. Then there’s playgroup, kindergarten and school.
Middle-age heralds the so-called halfway mark long before older years appear on the horizon. Now I’m in ‘aged’ country, I’ve realised something important: I don’t have to cope with each new era on my own. I can ask for help or advice about lifestyle changes or exercises…and pray for the strength to do them!
Every decade of my life has had new lessons to learn and decisions to make. Would I accept this foreign place, would I learn to walk in this unaccustomed way? Or would I prefer to hang onto the ‘progress’ I’d made in the previous era? What if I were like the five-year-old screaming on his first day of school, ‘I haven’t been here before, Mummy! I don’t want to go there!’ What if I refused to ask for help in my new environment. I see that the last era has an uncanny resemblance to the first!
So I wasn’t surprised when a similar theme appeared in my Bible reading one morning. I was up to Psalm 71, The Prayer of an Old Man. In The Message Bible I saw what he said to God, Don’t turn me out to pasture now I’m old. Or put me on the shelf when I can’t pull my weight. This man still longed to keep praising his God.
It reminded me of the afternoon tea I’d attended the day before with the JOY group from our church. Just Older Youth! We sat around the table and shared how we spent our time. What busy lives these ‘old’ people have! One lady spends three days a week visiting the sick in the hospital, and doing their shopping…and she isn’t well herself. Another runs an Opportunity Shop at the church Community Support Centre, collecting clothing that needy people might be able to use…and not having her own car doesn’t stop her! One of the men does handyman jobs for those who can’t, and grows vegetables for those who don’t!
We heard from the letterbox-drop lady who delivers church advertising pamphlets to notify the community about our helping-services. Two of our number collect their grandchildren from school every day. It would take too long to tell all the stories. Our pastor has encouraged us to share our collective wisdom with the young people who haven’t walked this way yet. I wonder if they know what we all get up to between Sundays?
Before we left for home, we were given a list of mission opportunities for retired people. Would we be willing to spend up to six months contributing our computer skills, teaching, building, plumbing or painting, or perhaps giving electrical, medical, or administrative help?
I looked around the table. Had any of these people here ever thought about opting-out, taking time off, or sitting in a rocking chair? Would they have time to go far away from home to help? They’d probably be the very ones to volunteer; they already had the habit! Certainly they weren’t asking God to put them out to pasture!
Yes, each era of life has its challenges. Surely, now we’re more experienced, we should know how much we need God to help us to choose to stay off the shelf!