The difference between being a senior and being an elder? Elders are those who have mastered the art of “letting go”.
I once met a greyhaired lady lying in a hospital bed who told me everything she owned had just been lost in a fire.
“Wow! That’s awful” I sympathized
“I’m just Thankful” she told me.
“I’m just Thankful that no one was hurt and that even my dog got out okay”.
What if you lost everything you own? Your home, clothes, photos, music, computer – everything. Would you still be you?
Would you become superbusy recreating it all? Do you have an insurance policy that would allow you to go out and buy back your old you?
Or would you buy a new you? Change your hair and finally go punk pink like you always wanted? Stop dying your hair and go bold and grey declaring just how wise, or foolish, you really are?
Or would you jump in your car (the fire didn’t get it) and start all over somewhere else? Create a new home in a new place in a way you’ve never tried before? How would you keep from slipping back into the same old comfortable patterns, preferences, habits and hopes?
Could you find some new energy to keep you edgy enough to explore those parts of yourself that have always been in you like slow-burning embers without ever enough oxygen to catch fire?
“Good teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life? I’ve kept all the commandments – but it’s not enough…”
“Then there’s only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. Then come and follow me. Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”
Luke 18: 17
What childhood fires of yours have been covered up with the ever falling leaves of responsibility? Day after day, year after year the leaves of duty, service, commandments fall upon our childhood dreams and freedoms.
“When I was five I was a poet, a dancer, a painter, a prophet, a sculptor, an adventurer and a hero. I was everything and anything I could dream of.”
Then slowly, gradually, gently, as leaves gently accumulate on your front lawn, the childhood fires of imagination get smothered.
You need an education. You need a job. You need a family. You need to make good and give back the debt you owe. And you need need NEED so many things to make all that happen. The needs keep growing and the needs keep falling – piling higher and higher on those childhood fires. Soon, your life is all about those needs, all about the leaves you’re neck deep in.
But GOD kindles those kindergarten fires. Back when you were really you. Without titles or job descriptions to define your place in the world, you belonged here simply because the Maker had put a spark in your mother’s womb. That divine spark is what you carried into this world – what makes you uniquely you.
Maybe you were a lucky one. Maybe you had teachers, parents, mentors whose fires burned brightly. Whose lives consumed all the dross of “things” that get in the way of inspiration and imagination. Maybe you had elders who had lost everything already and learned that what counts is what you can’t lose. Maybe your small fires were encouraged to burn freely – given space and oxygen and fuel to burn.
“It’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich church to enter into the kingdom” joked Jesus.
What if lightning struck? If Zeus sent a bolt down, if the Tower of Babel fell, if our church burned to the ground? Would we discover a language common to all? Would we discover that in the embers burned many small fires of imagination that have slept beneath the leaves piled high?
If you’ve obeyed the Commandments all your life and you are still asking “what else?” then all that’s left is to follow Jesus into a kingdom of childhood play. The world needs poets, dancers, bold discoverers of radical generosity and simple pleasures.
Your family, your church, your co-workers need someone to play with more than they need leaves to gather. When they look into your eyes will they see the Divine spark burning bright? When they look at your life will they see leaves piled deep or will they see a bright bonfire burning in this dark world?
Tomorrow’s Hero today
a lightning flash woke me while still dark.
the rain shower’s rush called outside my window
washing away the dream that held me undercover
trickling through mind’s grasp
to join with your dreams in the storm sewers
of this city’s awakening
what great drama held us overnight
while caretakers watched our empty buildings sleep
cleaners emptied yesterday’s waste into ever bigger bins
and cops kept company with cabbies and coffee counter clerks
as yesterday’s grind became today’s double double
you fought deep in the dragon’s lair
while I stole your magic coat
and running for the stars tripped on the golden ring
encircling the world
and She found the door at last
in the endless hall of searching
and He lost again
what was surely in the bag
and the crowd cheered when the dragon fell
but turned their backs
to avoid the mirrored look within the eyes
of Her severed trophy’s head
What kiss in sleep is sweeter
than the Mother’s waking call
to emerge from beneath the blanket’s cave
and become tomorrow’s hero before today is gone.