Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pew Putrefaction

"I don't want to wait till I'm 40!  I don't want to lose my sense of adventure, my passion, my enthusiasm for life!" she wailed.  

I laughed.  I know; I'm bad. Counseling my students as they face the inevitable growing pains is one of the ways I serve.  I ought to be able to keep a straight face by now.

Smothering the rest of my sniggers, I told her that at 35 I'm enjoying every minute of my life.  I'm training, slowly, for a 5K.  We spent the summer holiday touring SE Asia by train with the occasional boat and bus thrown in with two kids in tow (12 and 4).  I am in the middle of a 14 year love affair with the handsomest husband in the world!  Anytime I think I might be bored, God thinks of something else to throw at me. Am I going to hang it all up in 5 years?  "I'm 40," I'll say, "Life's over."

Her attitude is entirely excusable. At barely 20, she has La-Z-Boy chair - 03a very limited perspective. However, I've see this attitude among those twice and three times her age.  Recently I heard someone term it "recliner rot."  That would be where someone retires to their recliner to live out the rest of their days. There ought to be a parallel phrase, "pew putrefaction."  That would be where someone gives up service in favor of pew-sitting because he or she is too old. 

From a biblical perspective this kind of agism makes no sense.  God calls, and his servants answer. God calls to the young. Samuel was still a child when he mistook the voice of God for Eli's (1 Samuel 3:1-15).  He calls to those in the middle of their lives and careers.  Elisha was plowing; Peter had a family; Matthew was a career tax-man (1 Kings 19:19-21, Mark 1:29-3, Luke 5:27).  And he calls to the aged: Noah, Abram, Sarai, Moses, Aaron, Miriam, Simeon, Anna.  He needs every warrior in his army.  This army has no honorable discharge, no retirement plan. 

Abram is the perfect example. One of the most astonishing verses in the Bible says that "So Abram went forth as the LORD had spoken to him; and Lot went with him. Now Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran" (Genesis 12:4). At 75 Abram was called to leave his settled life and become a nomad, dragging his aging wife and nephew along.  The destination was unknown, but Abram went.  Just like that. No recliner rot here; God calls, and his servant goes.

Moses was another aging servant of the Lord.  Called from his exile among his father-in-law's sheep, he was full of excuses.  He tried, "Who am I?" "Who are you?" "Why should they believe me?" and "But I'm a terrible talker!" (Exodus 3:11,13 4:1,10) But he didn't bother with, "I'm too old."  He was 80 when he went to stand before Pharaoh.  

If you are thinking to yourself, people just lived longer in those days, I've got another example, Anna.  When Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the temple, they met her there.  She served God, uninterrupted in the temple for more than 50 years. Yet when she saw the newborn king and began to go around Jerusalem announcing that the Messiah had been born, she was 84  (Luke 2:36-38). 

God still calls, and his servants still answer.  I know couples who picked up and moved to third world countries to share the name of Jesus as a second career.  Women who worked and put their husbands through preaching school after they retired. This year the most influential Bible class we sat in was taught by a retired minister.  Years of teaching and preaching, old-fashioned spiritual discipline and strong expectations, made the class rich and deep.  It also inspired us to approach our study with a new dedication.  He's over 80.  That's something to be celebrated.

If the potential of our elder sisters and brothers is being wasted perhaps the problem is us.  I recently read Wrecked, by Jeff Goins.  It's an interesting book, worth the read, but he seemed to assume that the brave and amazing kinds of service belong to the young and uncommitted.   The middle-aged he suggests should settle down to a different kind of service: marriage, the raising of children and a steady job.  He didn't have a vision of life after 50 after all.  I can't blame him.  Our whole society agrees - life happens in seasons.  First the free years of childhood, the rebellious years of adolescence (getting longer and longer now), the settled years of middle-age, then recliner rot.  

Free, rebellious, settled, rotting, where is God in all of that?


All we can do, young, middle-aged and old is reply, "Here I am, Lord.  Send me!"  

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.


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