Visiting friends in a care home recently, we were sad to find a familiar face missing. But as many of the residents are in their 90’s, it’s not unusual to find an empty chair. Fortunately, visitors like us are frequent, helping to break up the monotony of long, inactive hours.
Some visitors are younger than us and the sight and sound of children is always welcome. When that happens there is sometimes a sharp contrast between a one year old and those in their 80’s and 90’s. For one, life is just beginning; and for the other it is almost over.
Most of us fall somewhere between these two extremes and we can certainly learn lessons from our observance of the very young and the very old.
Learning from life
A youngster is born into this world having nothing and knowing nothing. It is completely helpless and must depend upon others for its survival. The very old are in a somewhat similar situation. Many of them have left all their homes and possessions behind, and some of them have forgotten all the things they used to know. Knowledge and skills that took years of effort to acquire have now all gone, sometimes leaving little more than a vacant smile.
When we look at the young child we are amazed at all this child must absorb in the next twenty or so years. Learning to walk and talk, to read and write, learning maths and physics, acquiring the ability to play a musical instrument perhaps, and developing skills at sports. All this is accomplished in some 20 years. Then visit a home where the elderly are settled in rows of chairs, some with their chins resting on their chests, just waiting to be wheeled back to their rooms for the night. All their knowledge, all their skills, and all their experiences of no useful purpose in their present state.
The root of all evil
Money, the love of which the apostle Paul says is the root of all evil, is of little use to those in these homes. The standard of care is the same for all, whether the person used to be rich or poor. Of course, the very rich can have private nursing care around the clock, but was this the reason for their driving ambition to accumulate a fortune? To have a nurse sit by their wheelchair while they doze? Surely our life must have more of a purpose than just to accumulate a lot of money to spend on nursing care?
Mrs. Wrigley – of ‘Wrigleys Spearmint’ fame – spent her last years on the top floor of her mansion surrounded by doctors and nurses and never even knew they were there as she was in a coma. Many wealthy and successful people have made a fortune during their lives, but their God-less love of money meant they died in a totally ‘hope-less’ condition.
A word from the wise
We cannot help growing old and the only alternative is to die, but we need to evaluate our priorities to make sure that the things that take up our time now will have a value when our life comes to an end. All the rest, no matter how much fun it may be or how rich it may make us, will be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor – blown away like dust in the wind. When we see the rich and famous of this world surrounded by their trophies and possessions, let’s not forget that all too soon they too will be dozing in their wheelchairs, proving the point made by wise and wealthy king Solomon when he wrote:
“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 1:14 NKJV)
The Bible emphasises the futility of life spent ignoring God and his plans for the world’s future. Describing the destruction of a massive image that represented human achievements, the prophet Daniel wrote this:
“Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold[which made up the image] were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found.” (Daniel 2:35 NKJV)
Daniel’s prophecy went on to describe how that shattered and scattered image would be replaced by a massive stone, explained elsewhere in the Bible as representing the worldwide Kingdom that God plans to set up on earth when his son, Jesus Christ, returns as its King.
The things we all value in this life – like that gold, silver and bronze – will eventually be worth nothing. We will be powerless and without any hope in the day of Christ’s coming, unless we act now!