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Wednesday
November 20th, 2019

gary damronMY PERSPECTIVE, Gary Damron

 

Before a recent move, I spent several weeks in the basement going through belongings. As a historian, I’d spent years never throwing anything away, so the job was approached as an archivist with a treasure trove. My wife described it like an archaeological dig, with each box or file representing layers of our life that need to be examined, sifted and chronicled. 

The process continues even after the move, with the added challenge that now there is no basement and some of those files, documents and other mementoes won’t fit in our current setting. Yet just seeing, touching and reading has been valuable as the items brought to memory segments of time through our lives. 

We remembered our early days of church involvement, when we had little money and people were often giving to us, and we used to look forward to the time we could be generous with others. Living on a fixed income will challenge us in retirement to find other ways to pay forward some of those blessings. 

There are promises for believers that may not involve wealth, good health, or perfect circumstances. Hebrews chapter 11 is a summary of amazing Old Testament characters whose faith is still a shining example. “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated…”. Not exactly the outcome many hoped from the promises. Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). He also said, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11). 

Romans 8:28 is a precious promise that at the end of this whole thing, whatever happens during our life is preparation for and a precursor to eternity “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” 

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Though it’s true that Jesus “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:11), new life in Christ must obviously mean old value systems have passed away. 

Jesus told his followers, in the middle of a parable about the good shepherd, “‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’” (John 10:10). Coupled with that is Jesus’ promise, “‘if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed’” (John 8:36). The writer of an old hymn put the two concepts together: “There's light for a look at the Savior, and life more abundant and free”. 

According to Erik Erikson’s theory of development, retired folks are in a phase where their productivity declines, and their “work” becomes finding integrity and contentment as they look back over past accomplishments. In some ways it’s been amazing to think, “I can’t believe we did all this.” Growing up the oldest of eight kids in a poor family, my options should have been limited. However, following the Lord more than fifty years opened so many opportunities and experiences – we’ve done things, been places, met people, made memories, and it’s been a full life. 

At the pinnacle of my generative stage, which according to Erikson is adulthood age 40 to 65, I made the mistake of trying to do too much. One year, just before 9/11, I started a new job teaching history in an inner-city school while enrolling in a second graduate degree, pastoring a church, and serving as president of a local school board. Several health concerns were the result of that “abundant” year and I had to learn to look for fulfillment in different ways. 

I remember reading about the big revival movement in Los Angeles in the 1800s when Christian workers founded a mission among poor people. In time, their living situations changed. But the joy and fulfillment experienced by those made new by Christ was more precious than the comforts they began experiencing as productive citizens. Even if we don’t find “success”, poverty and persecution cannot overcome the prosperity that God provides in Christ. 

Abundant life is not about what we have, but who we have with us. It’s a promise that is to be reality for every believer. It also endures. Jesus prayed for each of us, “‘This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’” (John 17:3). Life, abundant and free, is when our experience shared with God is the most important thing. 

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