I WAS FORTUNATE
I was conceived when my mother was past the age that women usually give birth, and she was not in the best of health. More now than at that time, many would advise her to have an abortion. However, I doubt that she seriously considered that option, and am certain that she did not regret her decision. I was fortunate to have been born.
My father worked long hours in his general store. During the winter months, he rose early to stroke the fire in our furnace. He labored throughout the day, and well into the evening. Six days a week, and sometimes briefly on Sunday. While my mother served as the primary care provider. A task she took seriously. As a result, my siblings and I were well provided for. We were certainly fortunate.
My earliest memory is associated with our moving diagonally across the road to our new residence. I wanted to be of help, and asked to carry something. Mother suggested that I give attention to my toys. This did not satisfy me, since I wanted to carry something we shared in common. Consequently, she handed me a vase. It proved to be heavy, and I struggled to manage. But with success, and a feeling of accomplishment. As if a precedent for all the pleasant memories concerning my early childhood.
The village school was about a ten minute walk from our house. Having envied my siblings as they recalled events that had occurred at school, and I could subsequently add my impressions. I felt fortunate.
I was athletically inclined. As a result, involved in team sports much of the time into my early 30s. When I shifted to tennis, which served as an appealing alternative. This continued until my early 60s, after which I turned to jogging. All this was accompanied with relatively good health. For which I am assuredly grateful.
I left for military service the day after my eighteenth birthday. It was during World War II. When deployed overseas, my mother had a premonition that I would not return. This likely contributed to our joyful reunion, which is still fresh in my mind.
While in the military, I became a disciple of Christ. In terms of the gospel lyric, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” It has been a blessed journey.
My lifetime has been largely associated with the academic community. First as a student, then a professor, and still later in administration. I cherish these memories.
Joan and I were married during my last year in seminary. We were subsequently blessed with five children. Accordingly, I have allowed: “Home is where Joan is.” She has evidenced her love, assisted me in my labors, generously invested in the lives of our children, and ministered to our students. One would wish that others were so fortunate.
Our children have been a continuing cause for blessing. As they have matured, and raised families of their own. Then, in turn, we have been additionally blessed by grandchildren and great grandchildren.
I served two churches following my seminary training. I counted it a privilege to act in the role of a shepherd. Then to carry over something of this mind set into my academic ministry. While recalling the observation of one of my students, “You teach like a preacher.” In that I was given to exhortation, and perhaps also to encouragement. Then as a welcomed response.
My calling has also resulted in overseas ministries. Including a four-years residence in Jerusalem. Recalling the observation, “The Holy Land serves as the fifth gospel.” Since it contributes much to our understanding of the biblical narrative. Then on two occasions to Nigeria, an extended itinerary in East Asia, and elsewhere. This has been not only an opportunity for enrichment but service. So that I consider myself blessed.
I took to publishing as an extension of my teaching efforts. It has not come easily, as evidenced by the fact that one of my instructors asked if English was my first language. However, I have published extensively. Resulting in over fifty books and hundreds of articles. Leading a former colleague recently to request, “Please don’t stop writing.” Thus was I encouraged.
In retrospect, each phase of life has had something special to offer. Along with the peculiar challenges one faces. So that while some think of old age as tragic, my Nigerian students considered it more of an accomplishment. Especially as one can share something of the insight gained over the years with others. Thus to confirm life in its totality.
From a Christian perspective the best is yet to come. As impressed on me having worked my way up the Hunt Trail, from the foot to Mt. Katahdin to its peak. “The clouds seem to hang low. At times you feel as if you could touch them. The air seems fresher and more invigorating. Life takes on a new lease” (Whispers of Heaven & Heaven According to Matthew, p. 12). One feels blessed.
“Our attention is diverted. The sun peaks out from behind a cloud, casting shadows across the landscape. It creeps up the slopes, accentuating one feature after another. It sparkles in the water below.” The wonder of it all.
“I imagine this is what heaven will be like, only better. It will have been a difficult limb, but well worth it. We will have bonded with others on the way, with God and our fellow pilgrims. Sometimes we were tempted to turn back, but now are glad that we did not do so.” Such are indeed fortunate.
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