The very nature of pastoral ministry provides certain insights into the wishes, desires, and “wish I had done it differently” late in life confessions. As we enter this new year, it is my hope that some of what I have seen and heard and witnessed might offer us a moment for reflection even before we make our famous new year’s resolutions.
Forgive me if this sounds a bit “preachy,” but I’ve heard this a hundred times, and each time it saddens my spirit. So often as age takes its toll, we lose our independence. That is a hard pill to swallow. The car keys are taken away. If we want to go someplace, we must get someone to take us. Cooking loses its joy because cooking for one or even two, strangely enough, is harder than cooking for four or more. But what breaks my heart is when someone says, “I love my church and I wish I could get there,” or “I miss my church,” or “I’d love to be there for Christmas this year.” This is heartbreaking because there is a desire among so many to come home to the place where their faith was nurtured and where they confessed Christ as Lord and Savior. For some there is no substitute church that satisfies this need to come back, and yet they can’t do it by themselves and often their health prevents it even if someone would bring them. This reality confronts too many of us at some point in our life. The church and the worship and the hymns and the people and the smells of our church will elude us because we can’t get back. But the question that lingers is this: while we are able to get here, are we making the effort to be present for an encounter with God in our church? Today we might be able to, but what about tomorrow? Take advantage of your moments of importance at church.
Then I often hear about how much the family is missed. Distances create difficulties for sons and daughters and parents to travel. Birthdays and anniversaries and holidays come and go, and families miss opportunities to connect and occasions to say, “I love you.” Life gets so busy that we take care of the busy and forget the “why” of what we are doing. Then one day we look up from our career to see the children grown, our parents aging, and the marriage unrecognizable for what it was in the beginning. All this happens over time, and no matter what our age, an investment in tomorrow needs to be made today. So spend the time to cherish the moments of importance in your life.
On occasion someone will share the feeling that their life never seemed to get on track. A goal was never established. A work ethic never born. A priority never set. Life was never lived fully or taken seriously until it seemed too late. Make the decisions necessary in a timely fashion so that your life is filled with moments of importance.
Perhaps what I am encouraging us to consider is those aspects of life that will one day be valued as having been the most important. I am asking you to think of the future so that you don’t look back regretting the past. From my vantage point, it seems three categories jump to the forefront for our consideration: 1) our relationship with God through Christ and how we live that life in our church; 2) our enjoyment of and availability to those who love us and whom we love; and 3) the setting of priorities that make our life meaningful to ourselves and others.
I never get very far from Christmas without thinking of Mary, the mother of our Lord, who pondered all these things that had happened and what they meant. Mary gave birth to a child who is Christ the Lord, and she is pondering what the future holds. Beginning a new year, perhaps we may ponder our life in ways that set priorities in position where we do not regret, but we celebrate, our moments of importance with our faith and our God, with our families and friends, and with the things that ultimately matter.
I wish you a most blessed New Year. I pray you will ponder those things that are and will become your moments of importance. I encourage you not to put off till tomorrow the life God is calling you to live today.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Butler +