My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. (Psalm 31:15-16)
My dad died about two months ago. God graciously gave us a little time with him at the end. Dad was ready for death. When the big day arrived, it marked the end of an era for me. Now I’m part of the “elder” generation. We certainly are not orphans, for God is our loving and present heavenly Father. But we are next in line to walk by sight rather than faith.
With dad’s passing, Carol and I have experienced eight significant deaths in less than five years: Carol’s parents, my parents, my brother Darrell, Carol’s sister Ann, my Uncle Bob and my closest childhood friend Tom. (I blogged about most of them, if anyone cares to look back.) Two losses which have impacted me the hardest are Tom’s death and Dad’s death. Tom’s death hits hard because we were the same age. Dad’s death hits home, I think, because it’s the end of an era. We talked often by phone. I asked his advice as recently as this year. Dad even helped us with the down payment when we bought our house last year. It is indeed the end of an era. My childhood home is being sold. It will no longer be there for us as a holiday destination, a resting place, or even for a simple family visit.
This summer marks the end of an era for me in two other ways, too. First, our nation is bouncing back from COVID-19. The pandemic shaped and dominated my private world and my personal ministry for over a year. It was in the forefront of my planning as a pastor. That season is fading. What comes next will be different. The church will never be the same, even though the immediate risk for our congregation has passed. It’s the end of an era. (Unfortunately, the pandemic is still a threat in many other places, especially in the impoverished third world. So let’s distribute the vaccine as widely as possible!)
Second, I’m recovering from a fall on the ice in the driveway last fall. It has taken a long time for the full injury to manifest, but the effects have impacted my exercise routine. Physical therapy, not the stationery bicycle, has become my priority. I’m trying a balancing act to accomplish as much as possible, but the “easy” season of exercise and weight management has ended. It’s the end of an era for me. As my shoulder improves, perhaps with surgery ahead, I hope it will not turn into the end of my life-style diet and exercise. But these disciplines have struggled recently, especially with two road trips to Ohio.
The triple punch – Dad’s death, the fading pandemic and my stubborn shoulder injury – add up to a special challenge for me. Generally, I can state my personal mission statement and picture personal goals for the church in an instant (although only one person actually asks). Right now, however, I’m not sure about what’s next for the church. Since I’m the pastor, that’s unsettling. I’m in a bit of a leadership fog.
That makes today a really good moment to remember that my times are in God’s hands. His love is unfailing. I hope you can say the same.