Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well
I was quite put off at first. It was all so familiar. We had heard it a hundred times and more: “The Bible says.” The Scripture passages and their interpretation were all so familiar. I was hoping to hear something fresh, some new ways of hearing the old sacred words. True, there was also the familiar ring of authenticity, that humble integrity, which had characterized Billy Graham’s ministry through all those decades we had known him.
And, yes, I was impressed by his mental lucidity, his clarity of vision in regard to the culture around him, his pastoral understanding of the tangle of relationships, the comfortable steady look at his own impending end, and his vulnerability in talking about his own personal and relational reality.
And then I recalled that “the Bible says” we are to remember our past leaders and imitate their faith (Hebrews 13:7), not think their thoughts. And since, of late, I have occasionally felt a seismic jolt when I let in the stark reality of my own life’s end, I chided myself for my negative attitude about non-essentials, and decided to see brother Graham as the wonderful fellow pilgrim that he is, and accompany him on this last mile or two of his journey.
It no longer mattered that he hadn’t tucked in all relevant ideas neatly where they belonged in his outline, or that his paragraphs didn’t flow smoothly around one idea. Surely one can allow an old man the freedom to drop nuggets of wisdom here and there as they come to mind.
I watched the aging saint walk his next-to-last mile consciously, realistically, and confidently. I was calmed and comforted by the strong steady pulse of his faith, his restful trust in the God of love, his firm commitment to the word of God, his complete devotion to Jesus Christ, and his profound gratitude for the redemption Christ accomplished.
What is more, I heard clearly the call to service which God keeps issuing to those of us who are older and still aging, a call that rescues us from our culture’s way of seeing retirement as a move toward ease and self-indulgence. Each of us still has a God-given purpose to live for. And I resolved again to remain open to that calling, whatever it is, and however it may change with each year.
Though I may understand end-time events differently from the way Graham envisions them, I will remember that none of us knows just how and when it will all unfold. And I will remember, too, that we share the same hope that God will bring it all to a wonderful consummation, and a new beginning. And somehow, by the grace of God, I, too, will be a part of that.