It’s time I pulled the age card. At 72 years young, some things are much clearer to me now than in those halcyon days of youth. I say clearer. Not that I’m all that much wiser now, but living through a few "circles of life" have sharpened my observation skills. God’s gift of three score and ten – plus two – has provided some perspective regarding what we are all going through these days.
My point right up front: We will know a much more joyful and fulfilled life if we keep the long view in mind. The instant society that has absorbed us for decades has been slammed this year. Even if one doesn’t embrace a conspiratorial view of some of today’s events, it cannot be denied that our former reality is being shaken to the core. And the truth is, fixing this situation is not going to happen quickly, as most are grudgingly beginning to acknowledge.
I’d like to say the years have made this situation more bearable for me, and here are some features of my long life that have helped.
An Immigrant Family
Both sides of my family immigrated from Holland; my paternal side in the late 1860s and my maternal side in 1921. These ancestors saw a future for their children here in America. I imagine they felt the way I did when we moved from our pastorate in Washington to southern California in 1985. After a grueling road trip, lying in bed that hot July evening in Anaheim I said to my wife Rolane, "I wish it was a year from now." I wanted life to be down the road a bit, looking back at God’s provision and enjoying some stability. God gave us that, just like he did years ago to my ancestors.
A Farm Life
My first 17 years were lived on a farm. I saw the seasons come and go, the crops get planted and then harvested many months later. Things took time. Living took time. Instant gratification was not a concept I grew up with, as the process of growth, be it corn or cows, would not be rushed.
A Frugal Upbringing
Related to that farm life was how we dealt with money. We had land and livestock. Cash, not so much. Saving for any purchase was a given, and the wait could be long. My dad was 45 years old before he had saved enough to buy a basic fishing boat. And the memories I have angling with him on that craft have sweetly lingered ever since. Additionally, our family tithed. We knew all we had was the Lord’s and we would answer to him one day for our stewardship of it. Frugality in our families taught both Rolane and me to handle money faithfully and carefully. And so here we are, new retirees, able to pay our bills and share God’s generosity with others.
I would encourage you to look at your life and see if there are past experiences that could help you embrace some patience and peace. We have different stories to tell, for sure. But we can all benefit by taking the long view on life, especially now. Living in this way:
- Tests and energizes our faith. Immigrating to a new country tested my ancestors’ faith in the God they loved. Moving to California with our 9-year-old daughters did the same for us. We have often shared that our struggling times were marked by amazing acts of God’s power, kindness and provision. And in the end, we knew He would be faithful, just as he had been for generations.
- Deepens our understanding of God’s nature. My wife’s recent cancer diagnosis has given us an opportunity once again to lay hold of our belief that he is powerful, sovereign and able to sustain. We are already seeing his hand at work. But the journey will be long, and we are convinced his presence and love will overwhelm us and draw us closer to him in the days ahead.
- Sharpens our perspective on life and eternity. It is altogether too easy to see life with Christ in this world only. But we are eternal souls, and wise to appreciate the long view of where all this is leading. The apostle Paul brings attention to this often in his letters. Passages like Philippians 3:8; 2 Timothy 1:12 and 4:8 underscore his practice of living in Christ with the long view in mind.
As we wrestle through this unique time, may we as followers of Jesus Christ be comforted by looking down the road a bit and taking joy and hope in what lies ahead. Ed Stetzer, Billy Graham Distinguished Chair of Church, Mission and Evangelism at Wheaton College, said in his blog The Exchange, “No matter what culture — or even some in the church — says, the Christian life is fundamentally not about our best life now." To follow Jesus faithfully is, in part, an acknowledgment that our best life comes later and our lives right now should reflect this reality.