The latest "news" via e-mail reminds me of the illnesses and struggles of many friends and their families. An old friend called this afternoon to tell me his long-time partner had died a few months ago; he said it was lonely now. Another extraordinary fellow, a great-souled brother in one of the churches, is dying of cancer. Another is fighting off a cancer. I am reminded that one comes to a stage in life where one's near age-cohorts begin to take the blows of mortality on thier shields; the ranks thin. Among the Greeks, soldiers often served effectively well into their old age; they were mentally tough and strong enough to carry on.
I have been fortunate so far. My armor has not rusted badly. My wounds have not been traumatic, though they have surprised me. Hair gets thinner; it grays. Bodies get larger in the wrong places. Mental functions may slow. There is soreness in joints that one never exerienced before. I am not disturbed by illness at all, yet the possibility this could happen to me and my friends seems strangely more certain and inevitable.
So what? Well, for those of us who assumed when we were young that we were immortal, these things come as a shock. Boomers are doubly distressed; we were to be the fair-haired and irresponsible generation all our days. Now it seems likely we won't last forever after all. Since we cannot, nor can other generations, rely solely upon our good looks and good luck for life and health and world peace, what shall we think and believe to sustain us on the path we're walking?
Not everyone thinks this way, but I do. I listen closely to Paul when he says, "I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us....For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:18, 37-39).
When my friend called to say his beloved had died, he also said, "You and I, we once were children; now, we must be grown men." So we grow older, but we also grow up. What great deeds are yet to be accomplished, though we limp as we march? What can be done next to offer the glmpses of the reign of God for which human beings yearn? Don't all of us still have more time in our enlistments to speak kindly, share generously, trust completely in God, pursue justice, and walk humbly? Like Don Quixote, we ride! Not because we are romantics, but because some of us believe we are God-born, God-borne and God-bound.