I was asked to speak informally to a group of retired folks. I am fairly certain I have nothing to teach them, so I have decided to fall back on sharing reflections on some of the lessons and conclusions I have noticed so far in my life.
When I cast my mind back to childhood, I recall being taken to church by my parents. It’s hard to remember much from that long ago (!) but one impression I have is that going to church consisted, from my perspective at the time, in a lot of orderly behavior without many explanations. It was largely a matter of being obedient to go along and sit quietly and listen or whatever. I wasn’t asked to explain what I was doing or thinking, but as long as I simply followed instructions I was okay.
As a teenager I began to encounter the resistance inside my body to being told not to do what I wanted to do. I don’t believe I had heard the phrase yet, but it was a case of being told that “it’s not about you” even though the new chemistry in my bloodstream made it hard for me to think of anything or anyone else.
As an adult interacting with other adults in a variety of settings, it slowly began to dawn on me that, regardless of my effort, it was impossible to satisfy others with any consistency. The mere fact of serving others or following their lead did not mean they would be satisfied. If nothing else, this is surely a lesson that children teach their parents. I’m not sure why it took me a long time to get this, but it took me a long time. Following my own desires didn’t work but following the desires of others didn’t do much either. Obviously this is because each of us begins with what we want, long before we think about what others may want or need.
These conclusions give me a new way to appreciate the life of Jesus here on earth. As a child, it didn’t matter what he might know. His parents wanted him to not wander off from their company and scare them.
As a young man and then an adult teacher, Jesus learned from what he suffered. He accepted that he was not here to do his own will, but only to fulfill what his Father had sent him to do. Some people listened, imperfectly, for awhile. But mostly there were the blank looks, even from his friends. Scant hours before he died, he was asking them, “Don’t you know me, even after I have been among you such a long time?” No, they did not. It takes a long time to get your eyes off yourself so that you can clearly see what is in front of you, or hear the Voice of your Savior saying, “No, no, no… THIS is the way, not the way you are going!”
As a rapidly aging old man such life lessons have helped me come to grips with another conclusion. Though there may be moments to enjoy, there’s really nothing worth staying for here on earth. The parts wear out. More and more effort returns less and less accomplishment. Vanity of vanities. As Fr. Donald Burt put it, this isn’t a home, it’s a hospice! We’re staying here for awhile but ought to be ready to move on and out at any moment.
People like to say “it’s the journey, not the destination.”
Nah. I doubt I’ll want to take that journey again. Give me that destination.