Somewhere in the friendly skies between Denver and Sacramento I’m trounced/ambushed by an internal hysteria over not being prepared for retirement. Now “retirement” whatever that is, is still a ways out there… and I’ve got my retirement funds secure and growing with Lehman Brothers… whoops! None-the-less I’m overcome with this out-of-the-blue horror about the future. Specifically my future! And I’m genuinely frightened!
Standing in the long line awaiting my intermediate sized rental car I’m praying against whatever is responsible for the burning rod in the core of my body emitting this anxiety/fear while trying to listen to God for whatever he wants to say in all of this… It feels like I’m only shadow boxing with dread and I’m hearing nothin from God… all I’m getting is high decibel static.
Shuffling down the line of impatient customers toward me is a Churchill like jowled man who looks 83 wearing a floppy safari hat. With foggy eyes that never quite make contact with anyone this worn image bearer works the line offering maps of the local area… for… what, 8 hours a day? He looks miserable… I’m miserable as a new round of apprehension, accusations and sulfuric voices fill my head. I should have saved more… earlier, been more aggressive, less aggressive… shouldn’t have but that on the credit card… or that, or that… I should have been more frugal like my brother… should have bought gold/silver… should have, should have, should have…My fate is sealed to misery, that’s me at 83…misery, misery!!! (Now there is a bit of truth to all of this. Looking back I now know a lot more than I did as a younger less fathered man. There ARE a lot of things I should have done. This is what gives the Accuser a foothold of “credibility” that can destroy you (versus redeem/rescue you).
I get my paper work and hop on the shuttle to the parking lot to pick up my upgraded mid-sized car. The shuttle driver is another dinosaur… I’m thinking about 96 years old!!! AHHH!! Everywhere there are old men with faded gazes exerting what little energy/life they have left to make minimum wage doing menial jobs because they BLEW IT… like me!!! There I am 25 years from now trekking to Wal-Mart to welcome people as they enter.
I’m now in my rental beginning the hour and a half drive to my folk’s house. As I’m driving through the streets of Sacramento its as if everyone under 79 has been raptured … there are no children playing in the park, no young lovers walking hand in hand, not a single baby stroller, bicycle, teen-ager or skateboard. Everyone looks withered and stooped… the only ones walking the streets are those with a new layer of wrinkles and lost memories and friends. Gentle old folk with oversized purses or wearing felt hats, there are blublockers, old Buicks… canes and faded old shoes.
Please note: I admire and honor my elders. I’ve always loved hearing their stories and conversing about life, history and the lessons they’ve learned. For years I went to a local convalescent hospital to simply read, hold a hand, listen… I cried and laughed and loved it. Ultimately what’s happening here has nothing to do with the elderly it’s some funky mix of warfare and God… battling for something deep within my soul. This really isn’t ageism!
Internally I’m in knots… worried, frightened and unable to shake some shaming voice that barks out at me, “You’re a failure… you’ll never have enough savings/retirement/pension funds… NEVER, EVER EVER…slob!” (The “Slob” felt like piling on!). What on earth does my future hold?
And then I notice The Ancient One sitting beside me… (riding shotgun!).
He warmly invites me into a conversation and communion… which kind of surprises me… I thought we were communing, conversing… heck I’ve been battling all this fear, shame, accusation… and he interrupts me, “NO, you tend not to come to me with your fears…”
Silence. I’m a little stunned. What!?
His voice is fatherly and inviting and… strong, as he stays with the issue for about 60 miles on highway 50.
When frightened you run from me not to me… you’re afraid of me.
Your unfathered heart is crushed under the shame and self loathing you bear.
You go it alone instead of bringing your fears to me.
Come to me. Bring your fear to me.
Rest, come on, let me father you.
This all felt both foreign and simple. Can it be that easy?
In this mix of the two of us communing I begin to see a number of things more clearly. I realize at times like this I’ve mistaken the feelings/assault of anxiety/terror/dread/shame/condemnation as the voice of God... that all the self-loathing internal hate speech is God’s evaluation of me; thus I’ve run from him rather than toward him. I’m amazed that this is true of me… and that I’ve gone so long without seeing it! Wow! I see how I mishandle my anxieties… Like a young boy I stick my head under a pillow (hiding, avoidance, paralysis, passivity, “taken out”) or I start organizing…. I rearrange my outside world hoping my inside world will follow. You wouldn’t believe how many books, magazines, seminars I’ve consumed hoping for a change that’s unreachable apart from God. Apart from God.
I’m silenced… and he says, Let me father you, I will care and provide… walk with me. And all the passages of scripture about me being more important to him than sparrows and wild flowers and that I need not worry about what I shall eat or wear flood my heart.
The anxiety attack, all the fear, contempt and shame lifts.
I’m loved. I want to live differently!
Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all you who remain of the house of Israel,
you whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you.
I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. - Isaiah 46:3-4