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‘We’ve got all the time in the world,’ don’t we, God?

| by Ronald Keener

“We have all the time in the world” sounds like a James Bond movie title, as last month took the life of Roger Moore, who at 89, probably made him feel lucky to have had so many years with his fans and family. But cancer cut that celebrity life short.

Then there was the man who was my pastor for three years. At age 61 cancer took his life recently, and I am sure he thought he had many more years to go. I do know he expected to have ten more years in his pastorate. From the diagnosis to his death, he had just eight weeks, and I expect some of those weeks he had faith that he could overcome his troubles, even as doctors appeared to be baffled by his complaints and ailments.

My mother had a strong mind and good strength to her end at age 95. She passed away three months following her last birthday celebration with 70 of her close friends and family at the church home where she lived. Cancer, thank God, was not a part of her departure from this world. But because I lived several states away, I visited only infrequently, and still think about seeing her standing with her walker watching from the lobby, waving as I drove away to catch a plane. It’s what so many adult kids do these days when, in their jobs and other distractions, they no longer live close to their parents.

So when I reveal my age of 77 to people, and they say I don’t look it, I thank them and remark that I expect to be around as long as my mother (and her eight siblings, who mostly were in their late eighties when they breathed their last). It might have something to do with growing up a Pennsylvania Dutchman and being from the Kline clan.

I lost my wife Linda just three years ago, in March, to a bone marrow transplant that went badly. Or so we think, for she had ailments all her 67 years, but, foolishly, I always believed she’d pull through the latest surgery or trouble once again. So the transplant was just another hurdle, I thought, and we’d have another 20 years together, wouldn’t we? It wasn’t to be. She didn’t have “all the time in the world” like I might have thought. Her body couldn’t take one more issue, one more pneumonia, and one more strange and unexpected complication.

The world lost a really lovely woman in her death. Half German, half Italian—no, actually Sicilian, on her father’s side—she had a great sense of humor and her ability to laugh at a joke touched everyone in the room on those occasions. She was amused when I told her she was irrepressible and incorrigible, and I so wished I could have gotten her in the same room as Joan Rivers or Julia Roberts or Dolly Parton. Together they would have been a comedy hour not to miss.

Yes, we tend to believe that we have all the time in the world, but sometimes we don’t, so we best make good use of the time we have.

David E. Prince, a pastor in Lexington, Ky., blogged recently that we are often told by commencement speakers to follow our passion or chase our dreams, but that “on the whole, such admonitions are dreadful advice and will paralyze, not liberate, those who embrace them.” He calls them “cotton-candy assertions” and suggests we should “focus on the providence of God and the community where God’s providence has rooted and shaped our lives.”

Beyond that, he notes that “missing is the clear biblical teaching that the purpose of life is gospel-driven self-sacrifice and not individualized self-fulfillment.” Get on with what God might reveal for your life, no matter what your age, for, no matter what, we don’t really have all the time in the world, do we God?

Ronald Keener

Ronald E. Keener was editor of the national business and leadership magazine, "Church Executive," for eight years, and writes from Chambersburg, Pa. His church interests lie with congregational transformation, church health movement, church strengthening and revitalization and reporting on churches that have not just survived but thrived. 


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