We moved to a new home last fall, and we’re still settling in. The neighbors are kind and friendly but because this is a retirement community, we’re all close in age. That’s a definite change from our old neighborhood with its people of many ages. This house, though beautiful and spacious, does not have nearly as much storage room as our other house, the frustrating reason we’re still settling in. Nevertheless, we chose these changes.
Many changes come whether we choose them or not. When that happens, we can cling to God’s promise in Romans 8:28, that he works all things together for good for those who love him. Implicit in that promise is the fact that change happens. We’d have no hope at all if we couldn’t trust God to have our best interests in mind.
Yet, as we age, the changes we face can bring grief. Favorite landscapes are altered by the demands of new generations upon the land. Society challenges or discards the values upon which we’ve built our lives. Loved ones die. How can we come to our later years without feeling bewildered, frightened, or sad?
When my father was almost 84, dealing with physical ailments that had trapped his vital intellect and spirit inside an increasingly helpless body, I drove him back to our hometown to see the changes happening there. We passed the place where my siblings and I had spent weeks each summer, picking strawberries. Dad had been a logger then. After a day in the woods, he’d come home and work until dark to clear land, make a garden, improve our home and put up other buildings.
Now, he was saddened to see that the open vistas had been replaced by a sprawling elementary school and an encroaching subdivision. Across town, near the home of old friends Minor and Myrtle Bond, a new high school replaced the trees and fields. Dad and Minor had worked together when they were young.
As we slowed to look at the new school, we recognized the bent old man crossing to his mailbox in front of us. Dad rolled down his window. Minor greeted us in the delighted, enthusiastic manner I’d forgotten, but which in an instant, swept away the intervening years. The two old friends conversed. One couldn’t walk and his voice wasn’t much more than a whisper; the other couldn’t hear very well.
“How have you been?” my dad asked.
“Oh, can’t complain,” Minor answered. “We’re nearly to the end of our time, you know.”
I heard the tears behind the smile, and I wanted to say, “No, no, it’s just the beginning!” I knew that even reaching the end of one’s years on earth is a change that God in his economy means for our good. What I didn’t know was how I would feel when I reached the age of more than eighty. Would I still grieve for things I’d lost?
Now that I’m nearly there, I know that we do mourn those things. But I also live with the faith that someday, the changes will make sense.
I want to remember what the apostle Peter said in 2 Peter 3:10-13 about the changes that will happen when Christ comes back. The very earth and all that is in it will be burned up and replaced with new heavens and a new earth where righteousness dwells. Those who belong to Christ will be there. We can look forward to his return with joy.
Change then will bring no regret.