Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Beautiful Mind

And soon, too soon, the wintry hour
Of man’s maturer age
Will shake the soul with sorrow’s power,
And stormy passion’s rage.

—Bishop Reginald Heber (1783-1826)

We pray that we may serve God “in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives” (Luke 1:74,75), but things go wrong with us as we age and we may descend into dementia and darkness. Recently I read of a home for retired missionaries in which an elderly gentleman, long known for his saintly character, now in his final years, sits in his wheelchair and shouts obscenities at those who pass by. What shall we do with this absurdity, this cruel caricature of good old age?

Why our loved ones must suffer in this way is mystery, but we know that in time all things will be set right. Ruined intellects will be discarded and left behind. So Bunyan writes of Mr. Feeble-mind who, after long enduring his affliction, was told that his Master had need of him. “Then Mr. Feeble-mind called for his friends, and said: ‘As for my feeble mind, I will leave it behind me, for I shall have no need of it in the place to which I go: therefore, when I am gone, I desire that you, would bury it in a dunghill.’ This done...he went over to the other side” (John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress). “

So then, though we sorrow, we wait with love and large hope for what awaits our loved ones “on the other side.” There, they will be made better than ever before, with minds restored in stunning brilliance and beauty. There, “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well” (Julian of Norwich).


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