Frailty and Its Works
“Who has not seen, as the infirmities of age grow upon old men, the haughty, self-reliant spirit that had neglected, if not despised the gentle ministrations of love, grow as it were a little scared, and begin to look about for some kindness; begin to return the warm pressure of the hand, and to submit to be waited upon by the anxiety of love?" (George MaDonald, Adela Cathcart, vol. 3, ch. 7).
I was hobbling up to the door of my gym some months ago, when a young man brushed past me, almost knocking me down. At first I thought it was merely the thoughtless behavior so often characteristic of the young, but to my surprise he wanted to reach the door before I did so he could open it for me. It was an act of great kindness.
But it wounded my pride. "Am I not man enough to open my own doors?" I thought. I smiled and thanked him, but underneath I was troubled.
I’ve always found it hard to accept help from others. I was raised that way: My father thought you should never ask others to do for you what you can do for yourself.
Thus, frailty humiliates me. I want to be strong in old age, go out in a blaze of glory, exit in full prime, but weakness and neediness is a good thing for in it I am learning to “submit to be waited upon by the anxiety of love” (love that is anxious to serve). So the Amish believe, "God permits infirmity so others can learn to care."
I think of the lesson of Pope John Paul II who refused to give up public appearances even when be was obviously uncomfortable and weak. He wanted people to see his pain, because, as he once wrote, “Suffering stirs the heart to act with compassion; it unleashes love.”