From “Don’t Waste Your Aging” by Andree Seu Peterson, posted April 5, 2017 at: http://www.wng.org (adapted)
My father-in-law has fallen again. I heard the loud thud from the kitchen and there he was like a beached whale, motionless on his tummy where he landed.
My cat now spends half her day in bed and has become clingy, as if she’s developed a reflective streak and realizes we have been through a lot together over fifteen years. I open the front door and she looks outside for a long minute and then turns back in.
My father asked me to slow down on our walk a few months ago, only a half mile into the course. I looked at him like I didn’t even know him. He had never said those words to me before and was embarrassed.
These are the days (see Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 below) when “the clouds return after the rain” (good days are a only short reprieve before bad days come again). “The keepers of the house tremble” (hands shake, words are frail). “The strong men are bent” (only two of us in this house walk even close to perpendicular). “The grinders cease because they are few” (one favors the side of my mouth with more teeth). “Those who look through the windows are dimmed” (I keep taking my glasses on and off and can’t decide which way is better). “The sound of the grinding is low” (people seem to mumble, or is it me?). “One rises up at the sound of a bird” (light sleep). “Terrors are in the way” (it used to be so annoying when your grandmother always said to be careful of this and careful of that). “The almond tree blossoms” (a crown of white hair). “And desire fails” (some temptations are quenched not through virtue but lack of energy). “Before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern …” (everything eventually breaks, gives out, crumbles).
A chiropractor who was working on my husband’s back told us that the body has a memory. It has registered all those high school injuries you thought you put behind you forty years ago, and here they are again, saying, “Yoo-hoo! Remember me?”
If you study the Bible, you will find that God is always taking curses and turning them into blessings for those who believe in Him to do that very thing. Satan sows thorns and thistles in Paradise, and God uses them to mold character.
Of the four of us under this roof (not including the cat), I’m in the best shape. It could go either way for me at this point, spiritually. I could be proud and forget what I have seen and waste my aging. Or I could recognize that Ecclesiastes 12 is meant to make me take Ecclesiastes 11 seriously and to “cast my bread on the waters,” doing all the good I can in the time I have left, without being so afraid of risk. “He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap.”
The day is coming when I won’t have strength to cast or reap. I have a friend who is a chaplain for a hospice agency. She is sometimes the very last person someone sees. Some people only want to hold her hand and just be quiet. I wonder what they’re thinking. I’ll bet that no one in that hour is regretting having lived too much for God.
Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 — Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
Ecclesiastes 11:1 — Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days (NIV). Or as in ERV, “Do good wherever you go. After a while, the good you do will come back to you.”
Ecclesiastes 11:4 — Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.
Having passed over this day, Lord, I give thanks unto Thee. The evening draweth nigh, make it comfortable. As there is an evening of the day, so there is an evening of this life, the evening of old-age. Old-age hath seized upon me; make that comfortable. Do thou forgive and receive and save me, O Lord.
–Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) alt.