A Word from Walker
December is here, and with it comes the hustle and bustle of the holidays. This year feels a little different in that we seem to be slowly but surely emerging from the Pandemic. The people I talk with seem to be cautiously optimistic that this Christmas they will be able to return to some degree of normalcy when it comes to celebrating the Season by gathering with family and friends. Still, the specter of COVID lingers around like a barking dog attached to a chain of indeterminate length. We feel somewhat safer, but we wonder if we should keep our distance to some degree to ensure our safety and the safety of our loved ones.
December also brings a time of reflection when we consider all that has transpired over the last eleven months. Unless you are working in retail or the medical field, your place of work is probably in some kind of “wind-down mode.” Year-end reports, budget preparations for the coming year, children’s Christmas productions and obligatory parties typically fill the month of December. Many people take the remainder of their vacation time, trying to squeeze in some needed rest while juggling family obligations with seemingly limited success. On top of all of this, the advent of winter slows us down a bit. It reminds us that we not only need to add layers to keep warm but that we also should accept the fact that for a while, the days are shorter and as a result, our energy tanks feel less full.
Lately, I have been integrating these holiday rhythms and realities within the framework of thinking about life in terms of seasons or stages. Perhaps turning sixty this year has pressed this truth upon me more directly. For me, this feels like I am moving from Fall to Winter. What does this look like? Well, over the last few years I know that I have become begrudgingly aware that I have had to accept some physical limitations as part of my journey. My Dad prophesied this to me years ago when he was turning sixty-five and remarked, “Walk, growing old is not for sissies!” It didn’t make sense to me then but it does now. I have often tried to deny this truth but have been frequently humbled when I sought to do something that came with great ease a few years back but now requires more dedicated thought and effort. I think I have heard my wife Gina say more times than I care to remember over the past year, “I told you so” when I have tried to engage in some physical challenge with unrealistic expectations and metaphorically fell on my face.
Embracing this paradigm of seeing life through a seasonal typology also means that I should learn to be more thoughtful and even strategic with regards to where, what and with whom I spend my time. Because I have limited energy and less time in front of me than behind me, I can’t afford to be wasteful in any way. This means I can’t afford to be reckless with my time, talents and treasures. I need to have an enhanced and even accelerated view of personal stewardship. Practically speaking, it requires me to say no to many things so that I can say yes to the most important things. This is not just a hard thing to accept, but it can be a blessing when I quit trying to swim upstream and learn how to paddle the rushing waters of time and changing circumstances in my aging kayak.
Solomon understood this unavoidable reality of the changing seasons of life when he said, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.” The wise king was onto something here. Life is not static. While it involves great labor, strain and even routine, God uses the winding stream of existence to show us that we need to rely on his wisdom because change is a constant for everyone. The rolling over of one season to another should remind us that we cannot permanently anchor ourselves in one place or in one job or even one particular way of addressing problems because God uses time to usher us forward from the shifting streams we navigate into his great sea of eternal purposes.
As you navigate this Christmas Season, may God give you the wisdom to know how to shift your attention and energies into the things that matter most. This is vital not only for those of us who are older, but for all of us who seek to be faithful and adaptable servants of Christ.