How do you feel about old age? Illness, isolation, memory loss, deafness, infirmity? ‘It’s not much fun getting old’ you often hear. So, how do we navigate that with faith? To say nothing of quality of life?
I quite like the joke about the old man in the pub, clearly of advancing years, who notices an attractive young woman sitting on her own. With great difficulty, he gets out of his chair, shuffles over, and with some effort, he manages to wheeze out: “Tell me, do I come here often?”
So, here’s a question: are you a ‘now’ sort of person? Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die? (That’s in the Bible, by the way!) Do you want things in double quick time so that you can get on to the next item on the agenda? Or are you prepared to wait, sleep on it, reply to that email tomorrow, and always take time to form a more considered view? Perhaps we will have a show of hands in church next week! (Or in my case, better cancel that!)
And if you are a ‘now’ sort of older person, are you OK with failure? Because a considered response to life might carry a 90% success rate, whereas an immediate (albeit informed) one might carry only a 60% success rate. Are you OK with the 40% risk?
Take 75-year-old M. Jean-Jacques Savin – a Frenchman who once rowed across the Atlantic in a barrel. Sadly, he has just died trying to repeat the feat in an 8-metre rowing boat, the former paratrooper and triathlete having caught extreme weather conditions. When he set off, he said he wanted to ‘laugh at old age’. What do we make of that? Seriously good effort, and good for him? Or foolhardy adventurism coming to an inevitably tragic end?
I suppose that depends on your point of view.
In our Gospel passage next week, we meet two people of advancing years who won’t take no for an answer, well into their eighties. They keep on praying, keep on waiting, keep on believing that their Saviour will come in their lifetime. For decade after decade they hang around in the Cathedral (of the day) to pray and wait, with no assurance whatsoever that their prayers will be answered. (I wonder what the vergers thought?)
Seriously good effort, and good for them? Or foolhardy faith in the unseen and unknown, coming to an end in old age?
Well, prayer changes things. And their prayers are answered in the most dramatic way. And they go away, with joy, with peace, with revelation, having seen with their own eyes the seemingly impossible – the Saviour come to redeem the whole world.
Well, my prayer life may not be quite that long-term, I must be honest – I am more of a clean desk, clean in-tray impatient type of chap. Well, maybe I need to change! Long term success may need long-term effort – in life, as well as in prayer. Sometimes we need to wait on God for good-quality, life-changing answers, and not quick fixes.
I used to be impatient myself. But I just don’t have the time anymore!
Let’s prayerfully wait and see what God has in store for us this week…
See you soon!