In the introduction to his book The Longing for Home, Frederick Buechner writes:
Time, like the receding waters of the ocean, bears all of us who are time’s children farther and farther away from the near shore and closer and closer to those mysterious depths where we will come finally to our time’s end.
When I was young, I knew that perfectly well, but I lived as though my time was endless. When I was in my fifties and early sixties even, I deluded myself with the fantasy that I was still somehow middle-aged and had roughly as much time left to live as I had lived already. Which seemed endless enough for all practical purposes.
But now that I find myself pushing seventy hard, I have finally begun to wise up. It is no longer just in my mind that I know I am rather a good deal closer to the end of my time than I am to its beginning. (TheLonging for Home [San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1996], 2.)
I read this recently and it struck a chord. No I am not yet pushing seventy but in the next few days, a counter will click signifying that I am one year older. I am in my early sixties but barring a special dispensation from God, I am closer to the “end of my time than I am to its beginning.” I am long overdue for wising up. But what the heck does that mean?
Interestingly, one of the passages we read for our morning devotions last week was this:
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” (Genesis 17:1–2 NIV)
I sensed the Lord telling me: “Keep your eye on me not on the calendar.” Yes, we are to number our days (Psalm 90:12) but we do that by fearing the Lord. It still goes back to a God-directed life. So maybe I should not be so preoccupied with age but, at each stage of life, each year of life, each day of life, each moment of life, should be open to what the Lord is saying to me.
Abraham uprooted himself from Haran to go to Canaan when he was seventy-five. Moses encountered God at the burning bush when he was eighty. James Houston left Oxford to help start Regent in his late forties. Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa when he was seventy-five. God’s work in our lives is not determined by our age.
And maybe I should also be less concerned with what I am to do but to be more concerned with what kind of person I am. God wanted Abraham to walk before Him faithfully and be blameless. Indeed that was how God could use him. Not so sure about the blameless part, and Abraham sinned big time a couple of times, but surely the passing of the years means a continuing growth in Christlikeness.
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20–24 NIV)
What does it mean in real terms to put off the old way of life and to put on the new life at my age? At any age? We need to turn to the Lord for the answers. I need to turn to the Lord for the answers.
I am encouraged that Abraham was called a friend of God (James 2:23). I am encouraged because Abraham was real. He made mistakes, some really big ones. But his operative principle in life was faithful obedience. He left Haran for Canaan. He was willing to offer his son Isaac. So I keep my ear out, not for the clicking of the counter, but for the voice of God. I want to hear and obey. God help me.