Because of the fact that I am a pastor, I rarely get to attend worship where I am not involved somehow in the leadership of the service. That means that my involvement in worship tends to focus on what is going on and what I need to do next and how the worship is flowing. In addition, because I am a pastor, I am also watching the congregation picking up clues and hints and indications about how they are reacting to the worship as well as how they are in general.
However, that isn’t all that I think about during worship. At one recent worship, I came to worship in pain. I am not sure if I overdid walking or the change in weather affected me or I was sitting too much but my knees and shoulders were seriously painful. Standing to lead worship was tolerable, although I took the two steps up to the pulpit area a bit more slowly than sometimes. But when I announced the offering and sat down, I noticed something.
The pulpit chair is really low–and the creaky knees that I currently possess did some severe protesting at the extra distance to sit down. Normally, I grab the chair arm and use that to take some of the strain–but the shoulder taking that strain decided it was going to lodge a protest. I did set down but to be honest, it is more like I fell the last inch or so. Since the choir does their special right after the offering, I had a few minutes to recover–and wonder if I would be able to stand up after the special.
Now, I am not alone having such issues. There were at least 3 canes and one walker in use during that worship service–remember, we are an older congregation. I know for a fact that I am not the youngest person there but that particular day, there were only about 4 people younger than me there.
But as I was sitting in that way too low chair, listening to the choir and wondering if I would be able to stand without looking like my knees were in open rebellion, I wasn’t thinking too much about the others in the congregation. I was thinking about my knees, my shoulders and the fingers on my left hand, all of which seem to have decided that arthritis was a good choice. I was conscious of being 65, conscious of not being able to do what I used to do, conscious of having to think through even simple physical activities like standing up from a too low chair without further upsetting my knees.
I am getting old. Now, I know that aging is a state of mind and that we are only as old as we think we are and that my attitude makes a difference and that 65 really isn’t old anymore. I have heard all the platitudes, I may actually have used them now and then, hopefully not to shut someone up as they talked about their struggles with aging. But in spite of all the propaganda to the contrary, aging isn’t a picnic.
I hurt–and that is a direct result of living for a certain number of years. I am tired a lot–and that is a result of just not having the energy I used to have. I forget things–well, to be honest, that has always been a problem and has stayed about the same over the years. But I do notice a decline in what I can do and in my level of physical comfort.
What am I going to do about all that? Well, when the choir finished their selection, I grabbed the arm of the chair, put my painful knees under me and levered myself up to begin the prayer time that came next in the order of service. I carried on with the worship, preached my sermon, concluded the worship service, carefully stepped down the two steps and then, at the impromptu meeting to arrange our annual tea and sale, volunteered to be there pretty much the whole day.
Which is to say that I am getting older, I have more aches and pains, I am slower and more limited in what I can do but I am adapting and I am going to do what I can while I can as much as I can. Learning to live with and around my limits just might be a sign that I am developing some maturity.
May the peace of God be with you.