Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Flight Of Time

My niece sent this picture titled, “A Biker And His Babe: What happens when the kids take away your drivers license.” God help me if this is Sandy and I in a few years.

Since crossing the sixth decade of life I am sensitive to social time. In the past month I have been asked to speak to a couple of youth groups and my theme has been from Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10:

Young people, it’s wonderful to be young. Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless.

Solomon, also refereed to as “The Preacher,” wrote these words at the end of his life, when time had nicked him and he became cynical of man’s existence. I can relate. Every time I speak before young people I can hear Billy Crystal’s speech in “City Slickers” in my head (go to: http://youtube.com/watch?v=Q2Mh_2a29qk). Both Solomon and Crystal had a similar themes…enjoy your youth for time quickly flies by.

In many countries old age is celebrated, as the elderly are perceived to be closer to God. That is certainly true physically, but their reference is more to old age and spiritually. As one grows older and the body begins to breakdown, mortality is more evident than when you are twenty and have more energy than common sense. In every country I’ve had the privilege to work in it is the elderly who go to church. It’s the elderly in Bolivia and the babushka’s in Russia who go to daily mass. I visited an Orthodox Church in Romania a few years back and the ten people who attended were all over seventy, even the priest who faithfully recited the prayers out of duty, not out of passion. It is the elderly who visit the Hindu temples, the “blue hairs,” who go to church. Why? Because they are aware that the clock of life is set on one minute to midnight, and the second hand can neither be reversed or stand still.

My message to the youth, however, is not that different from my message to any group of any age. First, “man makes his plans but God directs his steps.” I’m not a determinist and believe that I do indeed have a say on what happens in my life. The grand design for our lives does have some predetermined components. I can’t change where I was born, my gender, my parents, and my culture. But there are many variables that I do have control over. God has given us an opportunity to write the script of our lives and that leads to the second point of my outline -- choices. As Stanley Barrett wrote in “The Rebirth of Anthropological Theory,”

Virtually every value, norm, act and decision has one or more plausible alternatives that contradict it. All social action involves choices between alternatives.

Everyday I (we) get to determine how the story of our life will turn out. The food I eat, the books I read, how I spend my time each day, all is the screenplay I am creating. It’s possible that I will get hit by a bus today (something I think about daily as I walk the congested streets of Delhi), and be rendered paralyzed and bedfast for the rest of my life. Perhaps I will suffer a stroke that will make and end to my writing and teaching life. But, apart from those things I cannot control, God has given me freedom to travel my course without interference. Of course the key is to allow God to direct our steps as well as not abuse the freedom we possess. I can do all things, but not all things are edifying, either to God, others or myself.

While I may be closer to God than the young idealistic youth I speak to (though I remind them there is no guarantee as the curtain of their play may fall before mine), I pray that I have a few acts left before I leave the stage. If I make the right choices, stay close to Him, I will finish well. I just hope I exit before someone takes a picture of my babe and me as we toddle down the last mile of life.