Most of us live in subconscious denial of the shortness of life on this earth for much of our lives. Often the bathroom mirror is powerless, even when it is obvious life is passing by. Barring some unforeseen illness or accident, hardly expected, life for a long time seems to extend far into the future. Its shortness has a hard time registering on our minds.

But over time it begins to dawn on us that life on earth, in every case, always has its dusk, toward which our momentum seems only to increase as time passes by. What changes, of course, is perspective. And some events in life are important teachers that remind us not only of the brevity of our sojourn on this earth but also of the relative insignificance of much that we deem important during our earlier years. There are few better occasions to gain perspective than a church anniversary. I attended one a week ago Sunday as a former pastor.

It had been more than 25 years since I had visited the congregation and had seen some of the people (except in memories of long-past events) and they had seen me (except in the congregation’s collection of confirmation pictures). I expect we all gained some perspective that week-ago Sunday. Children whom I had been privileged to baptize introduced me to their children. Couples for whose weddings I officiated introduced me to their grandchildren. Patriarchs and matriarchs who were the pillars of the congregation now used walkers to stay erect. All provided a lesson in perspective.

It wasn’t necessarily a lesson that I hadn’t learned already before. It was just the latest lesson along the way. It is a lesson that we all can use and probably need to have repeated. Hopefully the young people present received it as one of their first lessons in perspective as well. There is a place for youthful optimism and exhuberance that moves this world along, but it has a comparatively unimportant place when the dusk of life approaches, when finally the only optimism that will really matter is voiced by trembling lips as they mouth “The Lord is my Shepherd…” and the only exhuberance that will be important will be anticipation of joining celestial choirs in thanking God for His grace.

Ray Hartwig