Monday, May 3, 2010

The Rodent in Autumn

When Anthony Burton was Anglican Bishop of Saskatchewan, he wrote a piece about middle age in which he mentioned the accumulating consequences of life’s compromises. I’ve lost that article but the point stuck with me, even though I read it before midlife landed.

Now that I am over 50, I see that things I find annoying or insulting in others are uncomfortable reflections of lousy personal failures I’d like to forget. My emotions surge hypocritically, storming at others for stuff I’ve done in grosser measure.

Fear looms large – my conscience seems to recognize the size and scope of wounds inflicted upon others, and flinches in anticipation of cosmic payback. The fear only intensifies as advancing age degrades the looks, energy and other blessings with which one gets over in younger years.

Many of the pressures of midlife are, in fact, consequences of corners cut in earlier decades. Aches and pains generally trace back to overdoing this or not doing that. Financial challenges usually trace back to choices made with emotion instead of sober judgment. Relationship strains flow from old coping schemes put in place to avoid the costs of convictions.

Add to this my unhappy location in the Baby Boom generation, which in a consuming quest for pleasure made moral compromise our SOP.

At this same, painfully lucid time in my life, my prayers and preaching seem to have unusual insight and energy. Ideas come richly and without any laborious digging.

An uncomfortably plausible explanation showed up in a sermon about sermons:

“But sometimes speech is given to evil teachers for the sake of good hearers.”
Gregory the Great, Homilies on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, I.12.16

God must see the good in my parishioners, because from the midst of my sorry life holy speech keeps flowing for them.

Or maybe it is because preaching is one of the few aspects of my life in which I’ve fought against compromise. I’ve usually left hypocritical stuff on the cutting room floor, not preaching stuff I didn’t believe or wouldn't pursue. So maybe God is able to use this one functional appliance amidst the decay of the house around it.

Or maybe, as in most encounters with evil, I do better when I take the focus off of me and turn toward the love, gentleness, patience and kindness of God.


Jill said...

Ooh, another thing that comes with advancing age: hindsight!

Fr. Tim, don't you think that even if we did everything right (ate only healthy food, exercised the right amount, etc.) we'd still grow old? Perhaps we we'd be in better shape physically but . . . maybe not as wise?

TLF+ said...

Jill - yeah, and all of us have the death of this body in our DNA. But we do impact the quality of our living by things "done and left undone."

For wisdom, I think Proverbs has great insight in constantly contrasting the wise with the foolish... some folks don't learn a thing, no matter how many experiences they load up.

For whatever wonderful reason, Christ choses some people who are just as goofy as the rest and saves us from "this body of death."