I have had a hand full of people that actually care about me, start to look at me with an edge of concern lately. In fact, I can almost feel them whispering to themselves as I walk by, secretly saying to themselves, “Is he O.K.”?
And I understand that a little bit I guess. After all, they see this once enthusiastic and extroverted guy transform into an introverted hermit type of fellow, and watch from afar as old blue eyes has been walking lately with a little less spring in his step. I also refuse to “Grecian formula” things up, and so this increasingly graying beard, and once somewhat chiseled frame has started to show signs of budding atrophy–despite my still quasi-consistent attempts to keep everything from falling down altogether on a fat boy treadmill nearby.
They equally scratch their head as they see a chap who was once a movie aficionado grow increasingly frustrated at the morally inept and purposeless selection, and similarly irritated at Christian movie production attempts to “VidAngel” the unadulterated reality out of life that we all know and experience from day to day. As a result, turning the “boob tube” off as my old man used to call it, often seems the correct order of the day.
These same people no doubt likewise stop to reflect on someone who is now almost positive that nothing good happens after 10:00 PM at night, and who would just as soon pass the time reading a good book or in finding an old empty church to sit and pray in, than to do just about anything else. This is also the same person mind you who loves a huge mug of Belgium beer, or a glass of exquisite bourbon as much as anyone with half a pulse; and who puts an occasional premium cigar in the same category as filet mignon and a baked potato–hopelessly drowned in limitless butter and sour cream. To add to this complexity, this ever-evolving patriarch can occasionally be seen with the likes of Chicken little, and one of whom has correspondingly grown pretty damn sure that the sky is actually falling all around us.
A Delightful Paradox
Oh, and don’t get me wrong, I like to be around people (in small doses now I’m afraid) but am equally content with solitude that causes me to habitually reflect and write about the sky I just mentioned. I also grow increasingly content with a mixture of both a holy sadness and an equal zest for what God has left for me and my beautiful bride in the days that lie ahead–despite not knowing heads or tails of its sure footing anymore. And for sure, that has taken some reluctant getting used to.
In fact, I’ll go so far to say that I believe that this contrast I just described should be somewhat normal for those of us who are still faithfully pulling out eye-teeth in their pursuit of a God who often plays hard to get, and those who also grow increasingly wary of the endless “grasping for straws” for some eternal bliss in a home down here; when all the while we innately know that we were created for a city whose builder and maker is God. And the truth is, I’m now actually OK with this beautiful contradiction. But it’s taken quite a country mile to get here into my skin.
Death and Taxes
I can remember hearing Billy Graham say one time something that I found rather profound. He was asked that if he had it to do all over again what he would do different. He mentioned several things, but the one that stuck with me, that did not make a lick of sense until recently, was when he said, “I would have prepared more for growing old”. And this insightful thought has stayed with me ever since. You see because the fact is, that one day, just as certain as April 15th, the grim reaper will come to do his bidding, and I’m convinced more than ever that preparing for this certainty is singularly what has the distinctive power to catapult us into living a more purposeful life, rather than stoking the continual restlessness of having not yet achieved a life of perfect ease and comfort—a rose garden of which God never promised to those of us who voluntarily still walk on the narrow path. But I think perhaps we have forgotten.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have done things in life to try and “get ahead”. I’ve worked hard, pursued advanced degrees, tried to be the best at a thing or two. And in that quest, I have experienced some of the euphoria of accomplishment, and the equal sharing of the spoils that come with it. I still pursue this, simply because I want to be as great as I can be with the talents I’ve been given. And somehow, someway, I believe there’s a best-selling book somewhere in my repertoire that still causes me to not go gentle into that good night. All the while, I am now equally comfortable with being a normal guy who has also abysmally failed, yet who simply loves his wife and family, and who makes at least a feeble attempt to walk on this broken road. All the while, I am in constant hope for the daily bread and wine given from a Father who loves to give good gifts to his children–even when the battle rages on for the true fallen sons of God to at last be revealed.
Settle Down and Settle In
In conclusion, the reason that I write this, is not to give those concerned more reason to fret about my current metamorphosis; nor do I wish to become an old man before my allotted time. But what I do want to do, is to find a way to settle into this old man’s skin in such a way that enables me to offer hope and guidance to those who increasingly engross themselves in a never-ending discontentment from a life that they feel has passed them by, and instead embrace a life of child-like faith and trust in the one who has promised to never leave us or forsake us. To continually walk hand in hand with the one who longs to give us peace and rest even in the valley of the shadow of our inevitable death, yet most readily in the daily grind of peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and the ever constant “in-betweens” and “still not yets”. For this is the path for all who dare walk on this road less traveled, and I simply pray that you don’t have to become an old man before finally getting it into your skin.
Good stuff Mark….And I enthusiastically relate!
Mad writing skills btw…keep it up!