Yesterday was a splendid “I-can’t-stay-inside” kind of winter’s day, with a crystal blue sky, a life-rejoicing 75 degree temperature, a different universe in mid-February for this girl from Chicago. The cherry trees were already decked out a month early with their spring finery, and the yellow forsythia blooms competed for attention.
After just a few minutes walking the winding road around their neighborhood, I realized that I did not need my fleece vest at all. I carried it in my hand and rejoiced in the mildness of the day. On my second loop around, I passed an older woman walking briskly in the opposite direction. As we approached one another, I lifted up my vest and remarked cheerfully, “It’s warmer than I thought!”
She looked at me, as if deciphering whether she knew me, but then, she glared sharply at my friendly greeting. “It’s not warm. It’s HOT! “ she snapped at me, her voice increasing in volume, as if I was the cause of the day’s weather. “I lived for fifty years in South Carolina,” she stated in the harsh tone of a trial attorney, and then, it sounded like she said in bold print and in italics. “ I HATE HOT.”
“I even had to turn on my air conditioning this afternoon,” she fumed as she stomped away. The sky was still blue and the birds chirped from the tree tops, but dark storm clouds swirled in her wake.
For a moment, I didn’t know what hit me. My first reaction was, O my dear LORD, what kind of pain is that woman bearing? What is she facing, what is she going through, what heavy baggage is she carrying underneath that blue Adidas shirt? Everyone struggles with something. Everyone.
My second thought was, “I don’t want to be like that when I am older. Is that what I sound like now?”
I was reminded of a book I read last week If I Live To Be 100, based on interviews with centenarians that author Neenah Ellis conducted for an NPR series. In the book, she tells a bit of her own journey:
“But I only recently started thinking about what my life might be like at one hundred…As I listened to their life stories, I realized that I was being given a chance to choose my own future, like Ebenezer Scrooge. By lining my life up alongside theirs, I got a better idea of where I might be headed…I felt the need to make more choices; I could decide what sort of old person I wanted to be.”
”I could decide what sort of old person I wanted to be.”
What do I want to be when I grow up?
None of us has to wait until we are older.
No matter the circumstances, there is a choice between bitterness or joy. To leave an unpleasant aftertaste -- or the sweet aroma of Jesus.
This past year, I had to navigate a difficult situation and make some intentional choices. To keep me focused, I scribbled some questions on an index card and taped it to the inside cover of my journal:
What do I choose in this?
What kind of person do I want to be in this?
What is God’s way in this?
What is God trying to say?
Despite the dense brambly thicket around me and the ensuing storm, God’s Word rolled over and over in my thoughts: “Be found in Him.” (Philippians 3. 9)
My choices impact everyone around me – as I learned from an elderly woman yesterday -- as well as people I will never know. I can decide what kind of person I want to be when I am older, I can choose what kind of person I want to be today.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
and she laughs at the time to come.
Proverbs 31. 25