Seems like I’ve spent the last few weeks reminiscing about the past…
Two weeks ago I was celebrating my fifty-eighth birthday, so I had a lot to reminisce about. Hey, a lot of water flows over the dam in fifty-eight years, you know? (What are you laughing at? Either you’ve already celebrated fifty-eight, or you’re prayin’ that you’ll make it that long!)
Three days ago I attended the 1970 Senior Class of John Carroll Catholic High School’s 40th Reunion. Forty Years! I have to tell you for some reason, celebrating my fifty-eighth birthday didn’t hit me near as much as the realization that it has been forty years since I was a graduating high school Senior with my sights set on conquering the world. Wow.
As it turned out, I had a hard time conquering my own little world, much less the world. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve given up hope. Oh I don’t really want to conquer the world, but I do want achieve whatever it is that God put me here for. It seems as though I’m getting a late start on doing that, but as they say, “It’s better late than never.”…
So we had this small gathering of long-lost friends from various parts of the country. Our planning committee, of which I was a member, had suspected that the turnout might be light for several reasons, including, but not limited to, apathy, the economy, previous commitments, and work schedules.
Out of a graduating class of just over two hundred, around fifty actually made it to the reunion. Spouses, our Principal, and a handful of teachers brought that number to just over seventy in attendance. Sadly, ten of our former classmates weren’t with us because their time in this world had passed.
The facility that we had rented for the evening became filled the sounds of laughter and fellowship; old friends recalling good times from long ago. I can’t tell you how many times I heard stories that began with “Do you remember when….” And I lost count of the hugs and handshakes that I gave, and received.
At one point in the evening I stood alone in the back of the room, surveying the gathering of my old friends. I was looking at them, but I wasn’t really looking at them. You see, I was trying to look deeper than the smiles that were on their faces. Not that I could see it on their hearts and in their minds, but I was wondering how many of my old friends had achieved their own version of “conquering the world?” I was also wondering how many of them had, much like myself, felt the sting of falling short of making the dreams come true?
In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, the months of planning and anticipation came to an end, and the reunion was over. (In some way, I likened the process to what women go through when they’re planning a wedding.)
During the drive home, I wondered if it would be another ten years before I would see many of my old friends again. And quite frankly, I wondered how many more of us would be added to the list of the “dearly departed."
I also came away with two thoughts that have been with me ever since…
Many of my classmates were eagerly talking about their anticipated retirement, and what they were gonna do when they didn’t have to work. If I recall correctly, a couple of them have already retired.
As I listened to their plans, I was thinking about how far away I am from retirement. It’s not really about money. My wife Jackie and I have always lived fairly “close-to-the-vest”, opting for a moderate approach in what we’ve driven, where we’ve eaten, and where we’ve vacationed. We’ve never felt like we were sacrificing anything in the choices that we made, because what was most important was our relationship.
The result of those choices is that while we’re certainly not wealthy, retirement in a few years isn’t out of the question.
But here’s the thing: I don’t want to retire! Oh, I can see Jackie and me stepping away from our hair salon here in Birmingham one day, or at least having a less active role in the day-to-day operations. Collectively, the two of us have been in the salon industry for over sixty years, Jackie being “behind-the-chair”, and me being everywhere else. As they say, all good things come to an end.
What I cannot envision is stepping away from working for God. Yeah, I know that writing The Seed of Hope, or sharing God’s Word with people, or offering counsel and prayer in the prayer room in our salon isn’t a real job. But you see, I’ve never had the passion or desire to do anything in life the way that I live to serve God, in any way that I can. Every day I ask Him to open doors for me to serve Him. Every day.
It’s been just over four years since I was born again and was filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit. A couple of my friends used to laugh at my child-like exuberance for God, informing me that I was a newborn Christian, and assuring me that the passion for Him that consumed me would die down in time.
Well, guess what? It hasn’t happened yet, and I pray that it never will.
My other thought centered on change.
As I stood in the back of that room surveying the scene, I couldn’t help but notice the physical changes that all of us had gone through. I chuckled to myself as I realized that many of my friends looked exactly as their parents had when we were in school together! I hadn’t seen some of these people since graduation, and to see them again, not as teenagers, but as the next generation to be the oldest, was a bit unsettling.
But it was the inner-change that I sensed in my friends, rather than the change that I saw in their appearance, that impacted me the most. Life, and time, had left their marks. Our circle of friends had, individually, collectively, and for various reasons, changed. We had grown up.
And then, as is so often the case, my thoughts turned to God. And my mind was filled with an explosion of thoughts that I had grown older, and that so had my friends, and that some of us had died, and that we were no longer kids, and that our youthful innocence was but a fading memory, and that some dreams were given up on or forgotten years ago, and that things change, and that we change, and that the world around us changes every day, and that all good things come to an end, and that change is inevitable…
EXCEPT when it comes to God.
I realized that God never changes. It took me years to realize that it was my perception of Him that changed as I grew older, and not Him. He’s the same God that He was when I was a high school senior in 1970 at the tender age of seventeen, and at the not-so-tender age of fifty-eight. He is the same God that created the heavens and the earth, and the same God that spoke to Moses, and the same God that my great-grandparents, and my grandparents, and my parents, and now my children and grand-children, pray to and receive blessings from. The same God then, and the same God now.
In a world that’s constantly changing, that’s in such a state of turmoil and disarray, and that’s so filled with uncertainty, there is one constant that never changes: God. You need stability and hope for tomorrow in your life? Turn to God.
I leave you with the chorus from the song Everlasting God, by Glenn Packiam.
You never change, You’re still the same; You are the everlasting God. You will remain, after the day is gone and the things of earth have passed. Everlasting God.