Thursday, October 20, 2016

She flies through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring...old lady...on the flying trapeze?

(for all my fellow aerialists, especially Karen) 

I am routinely surprised at how quickly life has passed. Didn't I just finish high school? Wasn't it just yesterday that my children were babies? And who is that old lady I keep seeing in the mirror? In what seems like a blink, I went from a competent, full-functioning adult to—well, early-stage decomposition. At age 60, I find myself very high up in life’s circus without a net. And those who don’t think growing older is a high-risk, high-wire act simply haven’t grown old enough yet.

I used to be a fairly competent person. I was pretty good at organizing my life (and my family's). I managed a small law office and kept the house going and the kids fed. Not perfectly, mind you, but enough to keep our heads above the sea of dust bunnies and have clean underwear, mostly folded and in the dressers. I had good health and believed that that too, was somehow a sign of competent life management. But health and memory and stamina and ability are all fading as I grow older, and it's scaring the holy heck out of me. I now have issues: memory issues, joint issues, digestive issues, hair issues—everything seems to be slowing down, breaking down or sagging down. This is alarming, as I'm pretty sure I'll need my physical and mental abilities for some time yet.

I've been experiencing spiritual issues as well. I had assumed my youthful composure and contentment were the fruit of 'leaning on Jesus,' but now I'm not so sure. I'm beginning to suspect it's more that I was happy because things were going more or less the way I directed them. Don’t get me wrong, I did understand that middle age would be a new season…a time to accept I couldn’t do quite as much as I could when younger. The problem was that I understood what I thought that meant...which is not at all the same thing as actually understanding. I visualized myself gliding gracefully through those years—arm in arm with Jesus—my hair turning a distinguished silver; my gifts and talents coming to maturity as I finally gained victory over anxiety and besetting sins. Let's just say that reality has proved somewhat less romantic—more like an animal caught in a trap, chewing off its foot in an attempt to escape. I see now that it was easy to believe I trusted God when I had myself to fall back on. I discovered that I like fixing things myself. I like being in charge of me. I'm comfortable bringing my own resources to the table and making thing happen...or stop them from happening.

Now I sometimes feel I've become my grandmother, complaining with querulous voice that things aren't as they ought to be. What I didn't know—couldn't know until I got this old—is that God seems to have designed life so that we are forced to let go of every competency, every gift, every strength, until at last all we have is the breath in our lungs and dependence on Him. I know that sounds terribly depressing, and I confess I became cranky and morose. I began to look at younger people with envious eyes...their lives were still before them. Mine seemed, most unfairly, to be largely behind me. I mean, just about the time I gained a decent amount of wisdom, I forgot where I put it. My complaint levels were at an all-time high, and God seemed far, far away. But He wasn't really. He was just waiting for Queen Lynda to stop acting like a stubborn toddler and get her ample, middle-aged bottom off the throne. 

God wants all of me, even (or mostly) the parts I've been inexpertly handling on my own. So He is intent on removing those props I've relied on, even if that makes me He can pick me up. He is, after all, in the redemption business. And since there is no retirement in the kingdom, I have to let go of the old (hah!) and reach out for the new. I needed to stop looking at my life and toting up all the things I was losing and begin looking to God and asking Him what I was gaining. A new season more centered on the Lord and less centered on my own plans. A new wisdom, not my own but His. A new relationship based on my humble recognition that it's always been more about Him than it has been about me.

I'm not there yet. I'm still cycling through periods of discouraged resistance to this aging business, but I'm fighting to cross the line into acceptance. The alternative is not one I care to embrace. I’ve encountered older people eaten up with bitterness and regret—and it's becoming clear just how easy it is to join that chorus. I want my older years to be full of peace, strong in faith and growing in intimate friendship with Jesus. Old age is not some sort of cosmic punishment, it's an accomplishment not everyone gets to achieve. So I am asking for the ability to receive with gladness that the aging process is simply part of the race I must run...the course marked out for me. It is part of His plan to pry my white-knuckled grip off my life, teaching me swing out with abandon on the trapeze of life. I can let go, knowing deep in my knower that He will catch me—He has never yet failed. 

Since the day you were born,
    I have carried you along.

I will still be the same

when you are old and gray,
    and I will take care of you.
I created you. I will carry you
    and always keep you safe.
Isaiah 43:3b-4 CEV

For Karen, fellow aerialist and 

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