My morning reading over a cup of coffee, at my desk at the office, after my devotions and before beginning the grind, continues in John Wesley’s letters–as it will likely do until retirement, which is just 8 years, 7 months, and 18 days away. I found a new passage in one of his letters today that is worth commenting on, but I will put that aside to a future post and continue with the 1731 letter to Mrs. Pendarves that has been the subject of other posts. Repeating the quote, with a new emphasis:
“…I am afraid of nothing more than of growing old too soon, of having my body worn out before my soul is past childhood. Would it not be terrible to have the wheels of life stand still, when we had scarce started for the goal; before the work of the day was half done, to have the night come, wherein no one can work? I shiver at the thought of losing my strength before I have found [it]; to have my senses fail ere I have a stock of rational pleasures, my blood cold ere my heart is warmed with virtue! Strange, to look back on a train of years that have passed, ‘as an arrow through the air,’ without leaving any mark behind them, without our being able to trace them in our improvement!”
After bemoaning about growing old too soon and not having his soul fully developed, Wesley continues with a similar thought: that strength may wane much too soon, well before he could enjoy what pleasures the body could afford. Or, might Wesley have been thinking of the whole man–body, soul, and spirit? Surely if bodily strength and pleasures exist, so to do spiritual and intellectual.
At a college graduation once (I attended four straight years, and am not sure of the year), the speaker encouraged the new grads to “peak at eighty.” That is, as bodily health decreases the power of mind and spirit should increase, with the result that our most productive years should be somewhere around our eightieth on earth. That seemed like good advice. Of course, when I reach eighty, perhaps I’ll change that to “peak at ninety”!
Now 56, my body sure doesn’t work like it did even a few years ago. Why, back in 1995, on a pleasurable Saturday afternoon in August I raked an acre of cut grass and added it to a huge compost pile of leaves, thoroughly mixed the whole thing, then picked up and moved about 10 wheelbarrows full of dead fall apples to the same pile and mixing them in. I was exhausted, but not spent. Now, thirty minutes of weed eating leaves me ruined for the rest of the day. How did this happen? Surely thirteen years could not have reduced my strength that much.
Yet, I sense my mind able to grasp concepts that only five years ago would have been unfathomable. Writers like Emerson, Carlyle, and Macaulay speak to me in a way they once could not. New meaning in Scripture jumps from the page, and preparing Bible studies and Sunday School series is more than mere wishful thinking. Five years ago I had one book on paper an none in my mind; now I have at least twenty in the gray cells, patiently waiting in a disorderly queue for their turn to move to paper or pixels. Even as my body loses strength, my intellect–and hopefully my spirit–give me increased pleasures, increased productivity.
I’ve not given up on my body. I hope at 58 to be younger than I am at 56. I am determined not “to lose my strength before I have found it.”