PLYMOUTH, MI – I recently read a bit of prose by Wendell Berry that speaks to the experience of all of God’s human creations and our inescapable process of growing older. That is, if our Heavenly Father graciously allows us to walk into those mature days. I just celebrated my 66th birthday and as Sly and the Family Stone sang, “I just want to celebrate another day of living.” I don’t feel old. Well, I do have sensations that are new to me, like pain in joints and places, to which I had never previously given any thought. But in my mind, I am still 20 something years young and could assault hell with a water pistol, even though my eyesight may limit the accuracy of my aim.
Wendell expressed my feelings well when he wrote:
I know I am getting old and I say so,
but I don't think of myself as an old man.
I think of myself as a young man
with unforeseen debilities. Time is neither
young nor old, but simply new, always
counting, the only apocalypse. And the clouds
—no mere measure or geometry, no cubism,
can account for clouds or, satisfactorily, for bodies.
There is no science for this, or art either.
Even the old body is new—who has known it
before?—and no sooner new than gone, to be
replaced by a body yet older and again new.
The clouds are rarely absent from our sky
over this humid valley, and there is a sycamore
that I watch as, growing on the riverbank,
it forecloses the horizon, like the years
of an old man. And you, who are as old
almost as I am, I love as I loved you
young, except that, old, I am astonished
at such a possibility, and am duly grateful.
"VII." by Wendell Berry from Leavings. © Counterpoint, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
“When I wore a much younger man’s clothes,” I just knew that Jesus’ return would take place in a matter of days. I still believe in His imminent return, and know for a fact that His epiphany is closer than it was back in the days of my youth. I was driven to see as many people come to Christ because I knew we just didn’t have enough time remaining. That same urgency remains in my heart today, but with some added reasoning. I don’t have much time left because, well, I DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME LEFT.
Yes, His return is imminent, but so could be the termination of my earthly tenure. The law of averages is not on my side. I am passionate about making every day count. I may be a bit worn, but I am not out! I may move more slowly, but it is with determination and a more deliberate purpose. I have learned where all the potholes are and the land mines because I have stepped in most of them. In my heart beats the desire to see “just one more” come to Him. The dreams and visions that the Father gives me are just as big and grandiose, and even more so than those of my youth. It is my prayer that I have enough knowledge from my experiences and attained a modicum of God’s wisdom so that I may be able to see those dreams and visions become a reality, in a way that is pleasing to Him, beneficial to His people and advances the Kingdom.
I have a vision for 500 healthy, growing and multiplying Southern Baptist churches here in Michigan by 2025. I have a vision that every believer, in every BSCM church would know “who’s their one” and actively share the Gospel with them. I have a vision that every church that is affiliated with the Baptist State Convention would recognize, understand and embrace the greatest mission funding plan in the world, The Cooperative Program. I have a vision that every gathering of our BSCM family’s, whether great or small would fully realize that we can do more together than we can alone.
I may be aging, as are many of our churches and congregants, but that does not mean we are done. We may not be as quick or as agile as we once were, but that is no excuse not to stay in the fight. Paul kept proclaiming until the very end, “I have fought the good fight.” He kept swinging, fighting and punching like the prophetic pugilist he was until the very last blow.
Age is not a limitation, it is just a number. Now is not the time to quit, but to continue the fight with greater purpose. Now is the time to “Punch Holes In The Darkness.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.