Hope & Redemption In This Sweet Old World
I hope I die before I get old.
Pete Townshend penned these words that The Who transformed into an anthem: Things do look awful cold; I hope I die before I get old.
Is there a sorrier outlook on life? The cynicism of it is dripping with stark arrogance. As a midrange member of the baby-boom generation, which spawned that grim philosophy, I cannot register my opposition loud enough. Dying before I get old? Not really an intelligent approach worth embracing, thank you very much.
Old is so relative. Age is creeping through me with all its new aches and surprises, but even so, longevity sounds fine to me because life is wonderful. The only alternative to getting older by the minute is to gasp a final breath and shuffle off to eternity, which is forever—a fact few truly want to contemplate.
Life is what it is: A gritty grind scraping away our resolve—standing beside the graves of loved ones who died too soon—relational troubles that flash out of the past to haunt us—moral failures that have bitter consequences which never seem to take a holiday or even a coffee break—a series of detours and disappointments—betrayal, rejection, or others wishing us dead.
Notwithstanding all the difficult vagaries that come with the territory we enter upon birth, I must reiterate what I have repeated time and time again: Taking all the variables into consideration life is marvelous.
We choose the attitude that shapes our perspective. Will we be perpetually persuaded and influenced by what is behind us? OR, do we make intentional decisions based on the here and now with our focus firmly fixed on the potential ahead of us?
The past is the past—it’s dead and gone. We can either reflexively sift through its charred and smoldering wasteland because we’ve been deluded into thinking we have the capacity to fix or change it. OR, we can accept that what’s done is done—then, with deliberate courage set aside the ashes to grab hold of glowing embers of faith and promise.
We can remain mired in the sludge-like muck of yesteryear where abuses or injustices were done to us and the cumbersome chains of our personal wrongdoing entangles and weighs us down. OR, we can seek, receive, and grant forgiveness to go forward empowered by supernatural grace poured out by the One who formed us in our mother’s womb—the Creator who from everlasting to everlasting continually reveals the essence of love.
The choice is ALWAYS ours to make. We decide what will dominate our thinking and determine our character.
The Present & Future
Regardless of all the grief and suffering that life brings, being footloose on planet earth is to be treasured. We may all be functionally dysfunctional, but hope and redemption remain ever-present possibilities while we’re kicking and breathing—hope and redemption leaves its traces all around for those who have eyes to see.
Take a quick look out your window. Spring has sprung. Everything is fresh and full of vitality. Temperatures are rising while wintry bleakness has been shelved for another year. Birds are chirping joyfully as all of nature joins in the celebration of new life and new beginnings.
New beginnings should result in rejoicing. For the past three months in the Overcomers Program at Navajo BIC Mission, it’s been my privilege to sojourn with five men who take seriously the path before them. Due to chemical dependency issues their lives had hit rock bottom or were spinning wildly out of control.
They’ve been diligent and faithful in all phases of the intense curriculum and now arrive at a milestone on their journey—graduation from drug and alcohol rehab looms large. Memories will be shared, tears will be shed, and good-byes will be made.
Mixed feelings are running close to the surface as they ease to a stop at this intersection. The crossroads are crowded with excitement and anticipation, but many mysteries and adventures lie beyond this transition.
Plans for future endeavors are on the front burner. For them, in their exuberance to make amends and repair bridges, there are only good times on the horizon. Tomorrow is as bright as the glare of a thousand-watt bulb, but a cautionary note: Springsteen was correct about the dangers of getting “blinded by the light.”
With that in mind, here’s a lesson for us all to remember: The only guarantee that life comes with is that it will be hard and at the end of it we die—no one gets out alive. No one is promised tomorrow. Life is short. It is fundamental and universally true, but we tend to forget it because no one really wants to acknowledge his or her mortality.
Our Maker numbers our days: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” That comprehension should compel us to explore the beauty of life one day at a time while we strive to attain objectives. Life is to be lived and enjoyed.
We are to plan and set goals and reach for those goals, but we need to do so in the framework of understanding that God alone is the author of life and death. We are to chart out our course, “but the LORD determines our steps.” In his writings, King Solomon concluded that we are to “fear God and keep his commandments.”
All this ought to compel us to never settle for mediocrity. Our world does not need any more mediocrity—we do not require more one-dimensional thinkers. We must seize each possibility and set the example by pressing on with determination to make a difference in our little corner of the world.
The naysayers and merchants of political correctness have successfully dumbed-down every aspect of life, but we need not succumb to their defeatist viewpoints. There remain windmills to be tilted at and rainbows to be chased.
In contrast to Pete Townshend’s cavalier throw-away rhyme consider the wisdom encased in the poetic musings of Lucinda Williams.
Sweet Old World
To live in hope and redemption means that we will endeavor to dream the dream God has instilled in our hearts.
We cannot sit around on our aspirations waiting for life to be delivered wrapped up with a pretty ribbon. The initiative is ours to take—we must make the most of every opportunity and whatever happens, never surrender to the negative cynics who fly white flags at every adventurous turn in the road.
In all this we have to develop a plan that produces passion which cannot be contained, and then work that plan step by step. We must rise to the challenge of going all-out for perfection so that on occasion we can hit excellence.
Rest secure in the knowledge that God’s Word to the ancient Israelites exiled in Babylon remains relevant to our lives: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
To live well we must trust God and honor his principles. At the end of this earthly life—when the coffin lid gets closed on us—nothing else will matter.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.
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