Monday, February 25, 2008

GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY [you gotta be kidding]

I'm getting older. Don't argue with me...I shaved this morning. I looked. As if that weren't enough...I have tried to do a few things...simple things...at least they used to be...but this earth-suit [body] of mine is a mess. Let me tell you how much of a mess. In the last twenty-five years it [my earth-suit] has had triple bypass, a stroke, two heart attacks, Dupuytren Contracture, [in both hands] not to mention the knee replacement that I said no to forty years ago. Add to that the recently found compressed disks [three of them] in my neck the doctors say started with an injury I received fifty years ago [that I don't remember] that will require repair if my present program of activity [chiropractor] doesn't help. We'll see within ninety days or so. [We'll discuss the validity of chiropractic medicine some other time. If it only makes me THINK the pain is less I'll take it right now.]

All I can say is.."Thank God for the hope we have of a resurrected earth-suit changed into a heaven-suit."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. In fact, none of the before mentioned physical problems have done anything to me except make me better looking. [Older but more handsome. :)]

Seriously, I'm NOT debilitated by any of it. I walk two miles a day with my wife, Mary, long before most of you get up. I play at least five, sometimes more games of racquetball every time I step onto the court which is with some regularity. Seventy thousand miles have been put on my motorcycle since I bought it new in 1998. [I leave in a bit for the Big Bend national Park in South Texas for several days.] That ain't bad.

Then I travel a couple of times a month in church meetings where I can give the young people [that's anyone forty and above] a run for their money in anything they choose...and win most of the time. Other meetings happen also. [Next Tuesday I'm the key-note speaker at the Leadership banquet at Baylor University.]

But lately I've looked in the mirror, tried some things that I used to do with ease and simplicity, and have found I have to do it a little slower with more mental thought thrown into the mix. [What did I come to the garage for?]

You've heard it said some people are ulcer givers while others are ulcer getters. I'm the former. I've never had one. My modus operandi is to come against. That means the way I think is..."I'll show my body whose the boss"...and I generally do. That's not right. That's not wrong. That's just me. It's the way I've worked it to live life.

I will admit that much of my growing older has entailed a willingness to admit my way of coping physically, while not right or wrong, is not the best. I'm learning to NOT go against...or to translate...I don't have to prove to myself that I can...physically. There is coming a time when I have to realize I...can't. It is at that point I will have to admit my body doesn't define who I am. I've known this as a biblical truth for years but have never had to face it being applied to my own body...until now. Had I been able to apply this truth years ago it would have saved my family some fears of my perhaps dropping dead on a racquetball court, but, they've been gracious enough to let me be myself...warts and all. I hope I've been reciprocal in that.

But I'm "growing" older physically and learning some things about myself that demand I change. I want to do it gracefully, however, I have to admit...it is nothing short of a real struggle.

So much for the physical. The journey to "growing" older gracefully really finds it's struggle on the inside of me. It is an inside job. Just as I had developed coping skills and systems for my physical condition, good or bad, I've found that inside me there has been a protective way of living developed that would keep me from my worst fears. My fear [which I denied even existed for years] took the form of protection from being hurt, diminished, abandoned, and many other things that were all true in my family of origin. Not many sweet memories of encouragement, spirituality, sensitivity to the unique struggles in a child, or the other good things that we all wish to give to our children. They were practically non-existent where I came from. So what do you do? You develop a system of thinking and acting that will protect you from any further pain as described above. It may have happened then..but no more. [Don't hear blame here. Parents generally cannot be anything other when alcoholism, abandonment and abuse were their roots when THEY were children except Grace intervene.]

[By the way, a Dad in heaven led to Christ by a brother-in-law, a mother who is ninety who has come to Christ, a sister who died at forty-six as a believer, a sister and her husband, that soul-winning brother-in-law, who gave over thirty years to the mission field in Chile, a brother who was Senior Pastor and founder of a major local church, and my own fifty years of ministry, all this after a childhood was over, would testify to His Grace wouldn't you agree?]

It is that journey that I will speak of next. The walls of that inner constructed sanctuary of protection coming down inside me. It is that journey that causes the physical to pale in significance. It is that journey where the real "flesh" had to die and the "new" man come alive. It is THAT baggage that has the power to destroy relationships. How did it come tumbling down? [At least begin the process.]
I got married.

I'll tell you about it next post the Lord willing and the creek don't rise. [Or this earth-suit don't give out :)]

Paul B.

9 comments:

Paul Burleson said...

Andy,

This comment section is for personal comments. If you would like to say a word about the link, I'll be glad to respond. Thanks for stopping by.

Chuck Andrews said...

Paul

"It is at that point I will have to admit my body doesn't define who I am."

This is a very hard concept to grab hold of. It is amazing how much the inner man is connected to the outer man. We learn to relent to the fact that this is the physical body we were given but we continue to challenge its abilities, prove its sufficiency, and stretch our earth-suit to hold on to life as long as possible. We may not realize how much prideful trust we place in and the identity we get from our outer man until it fails. Like the anorexic, the mirror in my mind reflects how I see myself. I guess the trick is to have the mind of Christ, to see myself as He sees me. Growing old gracefully, to me, is acknowledging “my body doesn't define who I am" but who I am is defined in Christ.

You’re right, “you gotta be kidding.” I struggle with this every day. There are times that I refuse to acknowledge the limitations of my body and, almost suicidally, I push it to the limit. Like you said, not right or wrong but probably not best for me, Estela, or my family. The reason why I do it is more important–because I loose the struggle and let the outer man define who I am. I may loose a struggle or two(3, 4, 5,....) but I know Christ won the battle and my identity is His.

I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of your post.

Chuck

Paul Burleson said...

Chuck,

You would understand. I'm not surprised at all.

For others who might read this...Chuck is a long time friend, three years an associate pastor with me as senior pastor, then ten years my pastor as I traveled and he founded a new work in Norman, and on a heart transplant list because of a botched diagnosis and treatment of a major heart attack. That's when we get serious about a true definition of who we are. He's faced the real issues.

He has introduced the answer to it all, which I will follow up with, in speaking of who we are in Christ. That's simple to say but profound in meaning when it come to getting real with the games we play in relationships. More on all this later.

Thanks Chuck.

Anonymous said...

Brother Paul,

Thanks for the faithfulness, insight and candor of your post. I must admit I have not been as faithful in responding, though faithful in reading. I, like you, have more years behind me than in front of me within this tent yet I am reminded of David in Psalm 71 as he shared as an aging believer of the promise of victory. I just shared this with our church last Sunday of the victories David had in the past, affirming those in the present and confident of those to come. We have the victory in the knowing, the growing, and the going. I believe it was Adrian Rogers who said, "There are those who live in total fear of the unknown and the future to come. There are those who are too ignorant or oblivious of the future to even be afraid. And then there are those who know their Bible." Thanks for your honesty and willingness to share. Many today have life statements or mission statements. I try to keep mine simple: finish strong or better yet, don't mess up. I pray for you to finish strong brother Paul and that God would each day, give you another day, no matter the condition of the tent, to actively share your faith with this current generation of the strength and hope within you. Love ya man.

Steve Miller

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

In error I sent you a response I believe that stated it was anonymous. Sorry about that.

Steve Miller

Paul Burleson said...

Steve,

Well said. I have met many people whose life mission is "finishing well." [Heb. 12:1-2] I have to admit that been kind of a theme for me too. I have a series of messages based on that theme. I really want a life of relationships, with the Lord and others, based on it..as do you obviously. Good comment.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

I'm feeling a little strange responding to your words because it feels as if I'm writing to myself.

Reading your post was, I guess, as close to looking in a mirror, as anything I've ever read (apart from Scripture revealing who I really am).

Brother, I enjoyed it and look forward to reading your continuing saga.

I would enjoy those walks with you but, having become more tall as I've got less hair, my hands won't reach my feet to ties my laces.

Lin said...

In his book, The Meaning of Faith, Harry Emerson Fosdick gave the account of John Quincy Adams, then 80 years old as he met a friend on a Boston Street.

"Good morning," said the friend, "and how is John Quincy Adams today?"

"Thank you," the ex-president replied. "John Quincy Adams himself is well, quite well, thank you. But the house in which he lives at present is becoming dilapidated. It is tottering upon its foundation. Time and the seasons have nearly destroyed it. Its roof is pretty well worn out. The walls are much shattered, and it trembles with every wind. The old tenement is becoming almost uninhabitable, and I think John Quincy Adams will have to move out of it soon. But he himself is quite well, quite well."

Paul Burleson, himself, is quite well!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

Thanks for stopping by. I'm always glad when people can identify with my journey. Aren't we glad the scripture reveals the TRUE source of who we really are.

I'll try to keep the words coming with some sort of regularity. I hope you will continue to comment. Your thoughts are appreciated.


Lin,

I really enjoy that story About John Quincy Adams. How right he was...and yet...I also realize that, while this tabernacle/tent in which we live here is not our complete identy at all, there IS something about our humanity that will require this earth-suit being raised as a new kind of heavenly-suit, for us to be all we were created and are redeemed to be there.

Ah.. these mysteries that keep me searching scriptures, and all the diciplines, being aware I don't have all understanding yet. Humbling isn't it. Maybe that's part of the purpose of mysteries.

Lin, I appreciate your comment and all your comments I've read in other places.