Growing Older Gratefully
Two of the men I have most admired are John Stott, the British pastor/theologian, and Paul Little, an InterVarsity evangelist to college students. Both I had the privilege to know as friends and colleagues, in a number of Kingdom ventures.
John is now in assisted living south of London, slowed down by a fall and age. One of his former assistants, Ted Schroeder, recently attended a reunion of some of John’s long-time associates. John came in a wheel chair, and Ted asked him, “John, are you happy?”
He answered, “No, I’m not happy. But I am learning to be content.”
Paul Little died in a car accident not long after he and I collaborated on the program for the historic Lausanne Congress in 1974, he as director, I as the chair. Paul was one of the outstanding student evangelists of our lifetime, and, as I said at his memorial service, a “street fighter for Christ.” I have missed him very much.
On April 28 Paul’s widow Marie was 90. I called her with best wishes and we reminisced about Paul. Her voice was clear and she joyfully spoke of the goodness of God, how their children are walking with the Lord, and how Paul’s most popular books have been republished.
Marie, still overflowing with gratitude, quoted Zephaniah 3:17:
The Lord our God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with is love, he will rejoice over you with singing.
The move from action to passion, from acting to being acted upon, is a difficult transition. John and Paul and Marie all had full lives of active ministry. Their influence will live on through their writings. (I had the fun of brainstorming the title for Paul’s How to Give Away Your Faith with him in the early 60s and still highly recommend it as classic on evangelism.) Yet John and Marie in their older years still witness to God’s grace in every passage of life.
Corrie Ten Boom used to tell how when she was once afraid of the future, her father reminded her that when she went on a train trip as a small girl, he gave her the ticket the day she started out, when she needed it, and not a long time before.
Thank you John and Marie for growing older gratefully, and being a witness to me (as I think of getting older!) that the grace of God comes as we need it.