The feeling of an old jalopy heading home

Published 10:35 am Monday, September 10, 2012

As I recently prepared to attend the 60th reunion of my college class, I did some reflection.

Like an old jalopy, I am constantly in the repair shop, but I keep running — if only from habit. I never could win in a car show, and I can’t race any more. But they do a responsible job in patching me up, and I accept the responsibility of doing what is within my ability as an investment in longevity. However aging is my body, my responsibility is to keep maturing as a person. A few years ago, I watched some men and wondered if I was older than they. I thought, No, they must already be in their…

Octogenarian. This is what they say I am. “Growing old isn’t for sissies,” to be sure. But we have misunderstood our seniors, because what we supposed was the leisure of old age is the industry of staying alive. The goal is not achievement, but survival. What should puzzle us is not why we are so often sick and disabled, but why we should still be alive when so many are not. We are privileged with an opportunity denied them. With this undeserved privilege comes the obligation to live the lives we have.

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Just as in every stage in life, old age takes courage — albeit, a new and strange kind of courage. Rather than gaining strength, our task is to preserve strength. Rather than acting smart, we need to live wise.

I’ve been many places, but I don’t think I have arrived yet. I’ve done many things and have had a lot of fun. I’ve even done a little good now and then, although not nearly as much as I could have done. I know more than I understand and have done more than I have accomplished.

That I believe and behave rather much as I was taught at home and church comes naturally from recognizing they believed sincerely and behaved consistently — and it works. Since, I have critically re-examined it all and have taken responsible ownership.

I wish I had thought more about what God wants of me much earlier in life. It’s hard to catch up. I’ve wasted time when I should have used it. I wish I had looked for the importance in the many unimportant things that became my lot. There have been too many people I took for granted until they were gone. I let too many opportunities slip by.

Because I seldom had to study to get good grades, it took me too long to learn how to study. I was too content with whatever teachers presented when I should have squeezed them for all I could get from them. I sometimes wonder what it is I did learn in school and college. Yet, I came away with a love of learning and a reasonably good idea of resources and the methods to mine them. I wish I had thought to thank more of my teachers.

I wish I had learned earlier to stop looking around for the person I should like to be and understood sooner I am to be me.

God has placed me on this earth at this time for a purpose only he fully knows. Through his grace we have made some progress. I recognize he understands why it has taken so long and I fall so far short, but I don’t. He must not be through with me yet, because I think I keep learning and growing.

One of the most important things he has done for me is to complete me by marring me as he has. He has given us children and grandchildren of whom we are proud, but more to the point we are grateful to them for what they have done with what we gave them and for whom they have become. If they do not become greater than I, I have failed them.

I am not here to prepare to leave here, but to learn how really to be here. Not preparation for heaven, but the accomplishment of my life on earth

When he decided to place me here, he also willed when and how he would take me from here. I expect to go into heaven kicking and screaming — and then be embarrassed at my own foolishness. If I yet become all God called me to become, then there is no after-life, just the same redeemed life and a seamless transition within eternal life.