The Treacherous Years

“And I said to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” Luke 12:19 ESV

An odd coincidence happened recently. During the nighttime, I had sudden thoughts about the decades to come and how I should live them. Frankly, these thoughts were unsettling. How does one approach the final third of one’s life? Lived in a body that has endured six or seven decades of wear and abuse. Lived in a culture that is at best dismissive and at worst hostile. The coincidence came a few days later when a quiet Indy film presented itself. It was a bit of a salty movie starring Blythe Danner as a widow in her seventies coping with the American dream of retirement. The movie, titled I’ll See You In My Dreams, subtly asked the questions, How does one cope when pretty much all one will ever do has already been done? How does one live when all the challenges, all the accomplishments, all the drama that accompany living are past tense? The film presented the questions; it did not present the answers.

Around fifty-nine million Americans are age sixty or older. That’s a fifth of the U. S. population. It’s a statistic of concern in our country as our aging citizens cease contributing to the national economy and instead must be supported by it. After all, part of the American dream is taking our leisure in our sixties and seventies and beyond. A person can get by on Social Security, but one needs a hefty nest egg producing income to live well, especially at current returns on low-risk investments. From this need have sprung retirement planners and wealth managers galore, each firm more eager than the one before to set you and me on the path of the rich fool described in Luke 12:16-21.

The question of how to live the final portion of life, however long, is no less important and no less pressing than the question of how to live any part of life. A culture that encourages its elders, as Scripture calls us, to check out at a time when we are figuring things out is no less treacherous than a gang-owned neighborhood is to a youngster. The culture, like the neighborhood gang, must be resisted until one finds one’s way. Our actions – we who are the wisdom of a citizenry – are no less important than those of the young lions ruling Wall Street and Main Street.

We matter.

Proverbs 4:18, long a favorite of mine, reads, “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” The verse immediately following, verse 19, reads, “The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” The Rock over whom the world stumbles – that most offensive Person to many of our countrymen – Jesus of Nazareth, He is our righteousness.

I may not know the answers to my own upcoming decades, and I sure can’t Google them, but I do have a friend who knows the way forward. Who needs a map through uncharted territory when you know the map maker? For that matter, He is the territory maker. Minnie Louise Haskins said it best in 1908:

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night. And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

© M. K. Simonds

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