The Ghost of Christmas Presents

George, NC-SA
George, NC-SA

I entered the local Game Stop store to pick up a gift card for a young family member. There were people everywhere and a line wound from the checkout. I’m not sure why this surprised me.

Finally near the front, one of the cashiers caught my attention when he stepped back to the counter with a video game in-hand that had been under lock-and-key and addressed the customer.

“This video is rated ‘M’ for Mature,” he advised. The man stood there with his young son. “It has sex, violence, blood, and gore. Is this O.K.?” The man quickly nodded, gave a half-hearted smile, and replied, “Yeah.”

The purchase was finished and when father and son turned to leave, the young boy now held the video game and gleefully stated, “Thanks dad!” I left the store bewildered and then hoped that the gift card I had just purchased for my great-nephew would be used to buy something wholesomely fun.

Good News About Your ‘Real Age’

CC BY Joao Lavinha
CC BY Joao Lavinha

I teach adolescents and teenagers and interact with them a great deal. At the end of the day, they have free-time and love to run. Since I used to run regularly and am very competitive, I sometimes join in or challenge them; however, this has taught me some things about myself.

They think I’m on the cusp of 30, which was more than a decade ago for me. And that’s eye-opening to me now. When you’re young, even well into your 30’s, you feel invincible. If you’re blessed with good health, the idea of disease or life lived in a chronic, decrepit, or degenerating condition is all but a foreign concept. Most young people haven’t had to closely interact with the sick or experience life in a way that makes them more aware of their mortality.

Then, you get older. And, like me, sprinting against kids more than half my age young, what was once so easy to do is now attended by pulls, aches, and windedness and next-morning tightness.

Seeking God Early

When I reflect on this, I also think of spiritual fitness, a real comparison. I remember when, as a pre-teen—as young as some I teach now—I became more serious than ever about living for Christ. My instinct was to do an about-face regarding everything, although I had never been bad.

I memorized scripture, prayed fervently, developed a regimented life in the disciplines, and discovered more joy in Christ than I could’ve imagined. I can attest to the truth of Ecclesiastes 12 about seeking the Lord in youth and before days of hardship.

But how is my spiritual life now—not the evolving young one, but the more experienced older one? I’m not nearly an old person, but I have walked with Christ consistently from my earliest youth. And I notice some things.

Contentment in Serving Christ

I don’t feverishly memorize scripture as I once did. It’s tough to keep a set hour of prayer, and I cannot pray for hours as I once did. The disciplines aren’t exciting and experimental as they first happened.

Although I rely on a concordance now, the scriptures are richer. My mind is squarely seated before God during my day; I don’t feel guilty about missing prayer. And I live each day with a conduct that was molded out of the deep discipline of yesteryear.

May I suggest that the spiritual life is slightly akin to physical life. Youth brings with it prowess and agility, but with age comes maturity, wisdom, and establishment. In my endeavor to know and embrace God, there is now far less attempt at it, much less nimbleness and feat, and much more rest in it—in him.

So although the river may not run as fast anymore, it certainly runs deeper than ever.

Sometimes life just gets in the way of being in tip-top form—you know, like that gym membership we’ve all owned that quietly expired without much use. But thank God that although fitness is appreciated at whatever stage you’re at, heart might matter more.

I’ve got just as much, if not more, determination to live for Jesus. Even better, the race is given to those who endure, and there are more ways to endure than by dexterity alone. Hey, my friend, don’t lose heart.