We have been working on a presentation called “Aging Joyfully Together” and along the way we came across a number of interesting ideas. Among them is the idea that as we go through our lives God leads us into a number of lands as we move through our lives. We found two relevant scripture references.
In Genesis 12:1 God says to Abram (Abraham): “Leave your country, your relatives, and your father’s home and go to a land that I will show you.” It was a command, not a request. Abraham said yes to God’s call and became the father of three of the world’s great religions.
In Psalm 27, David prays: I know that I will live to see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.
Like Abram and David, the Lord shows us several lands in our lifetimes. For Rita and me, that first land was our dating years, when we spent time getting to know each other and developing a lifelong friendship. That friendship has served us well.
At our marriage we made a leap of faith that our friendship could lead us into a new land characterized by a commitment to love and care for each other through the rest of our lives, no matter what happened to us. That commitment was strong and brought us joy and gave us courage to move into still another land – it took some effort and medical help, but we finally became parents.
This was indeed a new and scary land. I (Bob) remember our first night at home with our oldest child. He was crying and we didn’t know why. Was he hungry? Or did we over-feed him and he was uncomfortable? Eventually we decided to feed him and he promptly went to sleep. That was just the beginning, of course, and for the next 20+ years we dealt with the joys and stresses of raising four children. Even the last one brought new questions and new joys.
Then, we moved into the land of the empty nesters. At first we still had some financial responsibility for children, but we paid the college tuition with a credit care and used the frequent flyer miles to go to Europe. We also had some freedom to come and go as we pleased and to get to know each other again without the day-to-day responsibility for children. Our former neighbor said that “Life begins when the dog dies and the last kid leaves home.” He had a point.
Now, both of us are retired from regular jobs and we take a leap of faith into a new land that God is showing us. As in each of the previous lands we have lived through, we approach it with some uncertainty. Do we have enough money? Will the state go bankrupt and I lose part or all of my state pension? We’re pretty healthy right now. What if one of us gets sick? Our insurance isn’t as good as when we were working. Might one or both of us have to go into a nursing home? What will life be like when I have to give up driving?
Obviously, we wouldn’t mention all of those uncertainties if they weren’t present in our minds, but we choose not to let them define this land for us. Instead, we remember King David’s words: “I know that I will live to see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.” If we focus on the negative possibilities, we will no longer be in the land of the living. So we focus on living now and we will meet the future when it arrives. In the next four days Rita and I will present five programs to enrich the lives of other married couples, starting with a presentation on the Sacrament of Marriage. That gives me life and hope and I pray that it will do the same for the couples who hear us. We’ve learned a lot in preparing for the program this week – maybe we’ll start working on a new book. It is still February, but I am looking forward to spring when I can work in the yard and make some improvements to the deck. I’m riding my bike in the basement now, but getting outside is so much better.
I, Rita, look forward to the warm days of spring. This year will be the first spring that I won’t need to be indoors. Our deck with a few good books is quite inviting. Like Bob I’ve been forced to exercise indoors. I look forward to walking outside and see everything comeback to life. Most of all I look forward to the smells of spring. There will be a First Communion, Confirmation and a doctoral graduation in our family this spring. God has been good.
We know that our life will change as we age and we won’t like some of the limitations that will force on us. We trust that God will provide new ways for us to stay in the land of the living as the future unfolds and we don’t want to miss any opportunity to see the goodness He offers us now.