May 30

“And no man could learn that song but the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.” Revelation 14:3

There are songs which can only be learned in the valley. No art can teach them; no rules of voice can make them perfectly sung. Their music is in the heart. They are songs of memory, of personal experience. They bring out their burden from the shadow of the past; they mount on the wings of yesterday.

No angel, no archangel can sing it so sweetly as I can. To sing it as I sing it, they must pass through my exile, and this they cannot do. None can learn it but the children of the Cross. . . Thy Father is training thee for the part the angels cannot sing; and the school is sorrow. I have heard many say that He sends sorrow to prove thee; nay, He sends sorrow to educate thee, to train thee for the choir invisible.

In the night He is preparing thy song. In the valley He is tuning thy voice. In the cloud He is deepening thy chords. In the rain He is sweetening thy melody. In the cold He is moulding thy expression. In the transition from hope to fear He is perfecting thy lights. Despise not thy school of sorrow, O my soul; it will give thee a unique part in the universal song. (Streams in the Desert)

I met our oldest grandson twelve years ago when he was two years old and I was forty six. His grandmother and I had met a short time before and she warned me ahead of time that he was perfect and that she was not interested in a relationship with anyone who didn’t fit like a welcomed glove with her family. I recall like it was yesterday my anxiety in anticipation of that first meeting. One-by-one I was introduced to her family, and then, finally, I met Joey. We went almost immediately to the backyard where I pulled him around in a little red wagon until I feared my arm would fall off, which would likely have been the end of my efforts to win him over, and his grandmother as well. As providence would have it, about the time I could no longer feel my arms or legs, Joey climbed out of the wagon and scooted over to the Little Tikes swing suspended by yellow ski rope from a frazzled red oak. I hoisted him up into the seat, secured him there, and gave his red plastic cocoon a gentle push. Joey giggled his approval. I slowly relaxed, and began to enjoy the moment as well. He was visibly contented seesawing back and forth in his cozy cockpit, so much so that he fell asleep to the rhythm of the swing. He was out, and I was in.

Joey’s grandmother and I married less than a year later, and as soon as he was comfortable sleeping away from mom and dad we began a Friday night ritual. I would drive in from working out of town and Joey would be waiting for me in our home. Weekends began the same way each week with what we still affectionately call the “sock game.” Joey and I, in turn, would take a running start on shoeless feet and launch ourselves into a slide down our wood floor hallway, measuring our ending mark against the other’s. Occasionally, we added a sleeping bag to the mix as a landing pad for knees and a sled to add distance to our slides. As Joey matured and I aged, he became more proficient at our sock game and I less so. Eventually he outgrew our weekend soirées, and the sock game went the way of Chinese checkers.

For whatever reason, Joey announced recently that on Friday night we were going to relive his childhood sleepovers and have a rollicking grandfather-grandson night, which began, of course, with the resurrected sock game. Time plays cruel tricks on the body and I quickly remembered that I am not the man I once was, at least when it comes to sliding down a hallway in socks. To be honest, I held my own at first against the twelve-year-old would-be sock Olympian, but when Joey threw the sleeping bag sled into the mix things went south–literally. I hurtled down the hallway and dropped downward toward the nylon sled, but instead of landing on my knees as intended, I plopped backward awkwardly onto my tailbone. To this day I’m unclear as to the Creator’s intent for this piece of human anatomy, but suffice to say it falls far short as a shock absorber. I fell back stunned, surprised at the amount of pain ruminating from my backside, and in the same instance it hit me—an old man should be wiser than to pit himself against a limber youth, at least when it comes to sliding down hallways.

Regret is a four letter word. In my current race against time, it renders me breathless when I should be gaining my second wind. Remorse does more than paralyze; it removes the flavor and fulfillment of any endeavor or experience, present or future. We remain bound by our past. The unfortunate thing is that regret is a prison cell entirely of our own making. We choose to be sidelined by mistake and sin.

Aging wastes time waiting on dejavue. I am not and cannot be the man I once was. Many endure each day attempting to recover something that was lost; the problem being they can’t determine exactly what it is that’s missing. The key to navigating the incessant flow of years is learning from the past while refusing to repeat or be vanquished by it. Wrestling with aging is an unavoidable occupational hazard, but maturity seizes the moment, holds it up to the light of experience, and responds with patient resolve to live better. Aging is a double edged sword—hardened by fatigue & failure, yet softened by wisdom forged from experience. Learn as much as you can from this life; others are watching to see what they may learn from you.

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