I’ve recently returned from an annual trip to Indonesia, taking teams of supporters across the globe to work at the orphanages we support in the island archipelago. This year, we also celebrated the grand opening of a community clinic we helped fund the construction of, south of the city of Kupang, West Timor. I returned home sick with a head and chest infection, and after two weeks home, I’ve still not fully shaken it. Feeling my age a little?
Speaking of age, I’ve been pondering the passage of time, following discussions with folks I know. My father recently said goodbye to another of his long-time friends, named Nolan. This comes after the loss of another friend, named Darryl, and several others in the few years. But these three- Nolan, Darryl, and my dad, have been best buds for a couple of decades, often referred to as “The Three Musketeers” by those who knew them. With each friend’s subsequent passing, my father lamented, “All my friends are gone. I’m the last one.”
The other night, I attended a men’s dinner with my friend and road trip bro, Mike, at his church. It was a fantastic night of Southern cooking, and good conversation with Mike and other guys. One of those guys was an elderly chap I knew from my previous church, Charlie, who is turning 83 this next week. He chatted us up about how he can’t drive anymore due to declining eyesight, how he’s outlived all seven of his siblings, even the older ones, and how his second wife (he outlived his first wife) has failing health and needs constant care now. There were hints of joy and sadness in his tone- joy, that “the good Lord has let me live so long”, and some sadness, that “I’ve said so many goodbyes in recent years.”
We are studying the ancient pre-Flood patriarchs right now in a summer series at our Phoenix Church communities, specifically Enoch and Noah this week and last. I’m amazed at the length of days so many of the legends of the faith lived in that time period. And yet, when I talk to elders today, each muses about how the years have flown by, and how long life sometimes feels as much a curse as a blessing. After Noah, God declared man’s years in the post-Flood world would not exceed about 120 years (Genesis 6:3). Few have ever hit that since, much less passed it.
I think, for Christ followers, long life is nice, but the more years we accumulate, the more we long for the home awaiting us, rather than cling desperately to the life here. My dad knows he will see all of those old friends again, since all were devoted Christians. My old friend Charlie from the men’s dinner had a glimmer in his eye when I said, “But what a glorious homecoming you’ll have one day, what a grand family reunion.” “Yep,” he quipped, “That’ll be something!”
Time passes here, but stands still there. I kinda like the sound of that myself, the older I get.