If you read my last blog, 40, you may have noticed it was inconclusive. My intention was to sum up my forty-year pilgrimage, certainly not a brag sheet or resume, but just a recounting of my life experiences on my spiritual journey. But the blog ended without an end.
Which is a good thing. Because it ain’t over, just yet.
After my last near-death experience in 2019, with my run in with encephalitis, and the subsequent long road back to a semblance of normalcy, I had not given up on life. I had, however, come to think that my meaningful contributions to the world were done. I had enough disability to justify setting the next couple of decades on cruise control and just enjoy life. I realized that the next generation was in charge – this is not my world any longer, and I cannot control the outcome.
Then it hit me.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Dylan Thomas
I ran across this poem in a book I was reading and understood that all that has happened in my life, all the good or bad I did, all the places I have been, the people I have known, the family I have loved, all added up to the now. And prepared me for the future of me.
I just do not know what that future looks like.
I have no intention of jumping out of planes, climbing mountains, spelunking caves, or any other thrill-seeking adventure that people my age pursue to feel alive. I do intend to pursue life with purpose and meaning and conviction. And maybe a little passion.
My speed has been set at idle for the last two years, as I find my way with the new me, but there’s plenty of go left in there.
A serendipitous series of events happened recently to confirm my revelation. Diana and I happened to be at a coffee shop downtown. We went to buy some locally roasted coffee for a gift for friends. While there, talking with the young man at the counter, we asked about the building and what exactly it was. He pointed us down the hall to what turns out to be a church, called Mission Chattanooga. We explored the place, talked to a few kind souls there, and we both had that warm and fuzzy that told us we were on to something. We streamed the service this morning and were both drawn in by the coupling of the ancient traditions of the Anglican Church with the modern trappings of American faith.
Now, I’m not saying we are headed down to join the Anglican Church, although that would not be a bad thing. But I am saying that it’s time I took my experiences going back forty years and bring them forward into a new thing. The old can become the new, embracing both.
As I was reading Philemon (part of my 2021 journey includes reading a new version of the New Testament) I was struck by this passage, something I’ve likely read a hundred times:
“For perhaps he departed for a while for this purpose, that you might receive him forever” Philemon 15
Out of context that seems vague, but Paul was writing a letter to Philemon that would accompany the runaway slave he was sending back. The man, Onesimus, had been a tremendous help to Paul in his imprisonment, and he was hoping that Philemon, a brother in Christ, would welcome him back as a brother too. The point being that maybe, just maybe, that is the reason this event happened.
So did we go in search of coffee only to find a new way forward? For the two of us that shared the experience, a hearty yes. Do I know what that way looks like? An excited no!
We never really know what life will bring us next. Whatever comes our way must be met with determination, expectation, grit, humor. And faith.
“So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Psalm 71:18
That is my hope and that is my prayer. That the God who never left me nor forsook me for my forty-year pilgrimage will open doors, point the way, build a bridge, craft a plan, that will allow me to be a blessing to all those I cross paths with.
The young may own the future, my kids will be the ones making change in the world after I am gone, but I have this promise:
“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” Joel 2:28
I might be old and half asleep and trying to figure out how to get up off the couch, but while I am there, I will have dreams. Dreams of a future and a hope, dreams of joy and life, dreams of the remarkable things to come.
“Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning, they
Do not go gentle into that good night.”
Perhaps someday I will write a blog post called 60.