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In spite of it all, I’m able to grin

by davesandel on May 24th, 2023

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

(click here to listen to or read today’s scriptures)

In spite of it all, I’m able to grin

Some of us are far too young to sing this Pete Seeger singalong song

How do I know my youth is all spent?

My get up and go has got up and went

But in spite of it all, I’m able to grin

When I think of the places my get up has been

 Old age is golden, I think I’ve heard said

But sometimes I wonder as I crawl into bed

My ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup

My eyes on the table until I wake up

 As sleep dims my vision, I say to myself

Is there anything else I should lay on the shelf?

But nations are warring and business is vexed

So I’ll stick around to see what happens next

 How do I know …

 When I was younger, my slippers were red

I could kick up my heels right over my head

When I was older my slippers were blue

But still I could dance the whole night thru

 Now I am old, my slippers are black

I huff to the store and I puff my way back

But never you laugh, I don’t mind at all

I’d rather be huffing than not puff at all

 How do I know …

 I get up each morning and dust off my wits

Open the paper and read the obits

If I’m not there, I know I’m not dead

So I eat a good breakfast and go back to bed

 How do I know …

And I must also say, some of us are not too old at all!

Some famous friends have died recently. Most recently pastor and intellectual Tim Keller, a year younger than Margaret and I. Antihero Jerry Springer, age 79. Michael Gerson, columnist and intellectual, age 58. A while ago, Dallas Willard, age 77.

Like Paul, all of them had a chance to say goodbye.

Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare anyone. From your own group men will come forward perverting the truth, so be vigilant.

Like Paul, all of them could endeavor to turn the eyes of their disciples toward God.

Now I commend you to God and to that gracious word of his that can build you up and give you the inheritance.

Paul rarely hesitated to point out what he had done to build others up. He talked about it a lot, actually. Rarely did his listeners seem to think he was overly full of himself.

You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus who himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Paul spent long hours with some of Jesus’ disciples. Imagine the questions that he asked, and the stories that he heard. He must have heard some of what Jesus said at the last supper, in the upper room, moments before he was arrested on the Mount of Olives. This moment might have felt like that to him.

When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said they would never see his face again.

I want to learn both sides of this grieving, to pour out my sadness at leaving, and pour out my sadness at being left. Nothing in my life’s education has purposely taught me how. What is wrong with us adults who seem to think we’ll live forever, who don’t practice the weeping of goodbye and don’t teach our kids about it either?

I think I know one thing: we haven’t learned how to juggle two contradictory events, but think we are required to pick either-or. So we don’t juggle thoughts of our life full of plans, emotions and thousands of heartbeats with imaginings of our unpredictable but certain death. Worse, we call ourselves or others either maudlin or morbid when we dwell too much on one or the other. Hearing the judgment, we keep this confusion to ourselves.

Far better to watch Jesus. As he is about to die he asks his Father to “consecrate them in the truth.”

Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

(Acts 20, Psalm 68, John 17)

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