We all carry scars. Like old lions lying in the sun. Like old warriors trying to get it together one last time.
No one emerges from this life unscathed.
At age 80-plus I lie in bed in the early morning hours all finished with sleep but knowing it’s still too early to rise, just thinking about things. My mind travels back to errors I have made along the way, mistakes of all kinds, big and little, consequential and not. I try not to beat myself up over them, but frequently I offer up a prayer for the one I may have hurt or disappointed or neglected.
I’ve told here how my father in the last few years of his lengthy life (over 95 orbits around the sun!) dredged up something from his 18th year that still bothered him. His mother had ordered him to leave home and live on his own.. (Grandma had a houseful of children, they were a coal-mining family, the boys were constantly fighting, while Carl–my dad–had been earning his own living for years and she needed some peace. I suspect I’d have done what she did.) Nothing we said eased Dad’s mind. It bothered him that his mother did something so unfair. Eventually time became his friend and as he eased into the sunset of life (I’m smiling at such an apt but dumb depiction of death!), this ceased to bother him.
When I lie there thinking of the past, my mind does not fixate on failures of others or my mistreatment by them. I’ve been the recipient of blessings and grace galore. No complaints here. (When my Bertha–we will celebrate four years of marriage on January 11–brings my favorite dinner in, I sometimes say, “I must be one of the most deserving people in the world. Either that, or I am daily showered with grace!” I know the answer to that one.)
In repose, my mind wants to dig up my failures. As a husband, a pastor, a father, a neighbor, a friend, a church member, a student, a teacher, an employee, a son, a brother, whatever–I have failed enough, goofed off enough, and rebelled and been lazy enough for several lifetimes. I think of the Scripture that says, “If You should mark iniquities, O Lord, who would stand?” It’s Psalm 130:3 and it’s a big one. I know the truth of it.
The truth of it is this: No one emerges unscathed from this life.
No one travels the length of life without sinning, without failing and getting the most critical things wrong sometimes.
Job said, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away….” (Job 14:1ff)
I suspect we all know that. But something happens when old preachers really get old and yet continue to stay active, like I’m blessed with doing. (Today is December 22, 2020. I will turn 81 on March 28 next.) Because the brain is still functioning at a high level and my wife and I are as active as we have ever been–almost, but let’s just say we are–some people think we must be saints or holier than most. In truth, we’re pretty much the same people we were back thirty years ago when I was struggling to pastor a church and the deacons often thought I had lost my mind and church members shook their heads and wondered whether to try the church across town. I’m no more saintly now than then.
The difference is I’m just settled and more focused. Back then my days were parceled out in a hundred directions as I tried to pastor a church and lead a staff and minister to individuals and prepare sermons and counsel, administrate, witness, set the example, stay close to the Lord, study, all while trying to be a husband to Margaret and a father to three adult children, two of whom were married. My life was as unified as your typical jigsaw puzzle. But it’s not any longer. And that is quite a blessing.
It’s not just Covid-19 that has kept me in the house more. Life does that as we pile up the years. I’ve been retired for over 12 years. I stay inside and write and study, cartoon for publications and individuals, work on my blog, and a few other things, all of them from inside my house. I readily admit I’m ready to get back on the road again. I even bought a new car six weeks ago. I’m so ready for this coronavirus nightmare to be over and for invitations to preach and minister to arrive, and at the same time fearful some will think because of my age I’m no longer able to serve or think coherently or talk clearly. I guarantee I’m not the first to do that, I know very well. But the Lord who called me to this labor is in charge of the time I spend in the field and when I leave “for the house.” His timing is always good.
God’s grace is so wonderful. Were it not for His steady supply of grace and mercy, those early morning recriminations would be crippling. As it is, they are merely scars of where there was once a hurt that God has healed. God is good.