October 5, 2022
A Note from Marilyn Hoeflinger
In November I will celebrate 70 years on this earth. I’m not sure what 70 feels like, honestly. In my mind I am 20, wait, 35, no, most likely 42.
I’m not sure why I settle on that number, but when I think of what I want to do and how to do it, it is the body I had when I was 42. When I could sit crisscross applesauce in one movement and rise in the same fashion, or walk up more than one flight of stairs (like Arps Hall on the OSU campus) without holding on to the handrail and not be out of breath when I finally reached my destination.
Those things aren’t possible now. It is a process to sit on the floor and even more of a side show to watch me get up, and although I think I am in relatively good shape, too many stairs with no break can make my legs ache and quiver going up and coming down!
If anyone who is reading this is nodding your head in understanding, we know that our bodies are the most impermanent part of what holds us as part of humanity.
Aware of our Mortality
Being aware of our own mortality is a good thing; to realize you have lived more years than you have ahead of you is sobering and yet liberating.
Kathleen Dowling Singh shares, the “life of an elder is to ripen into being more than simply elderly, more than just old. It involves ripening into clear-eyed acceptance of the way things exist.”
As we age, the human mind becomes ripe in holiness and spiritual fulfillment as we are learning to “sit in the sun of God’s mysterious, sustaining presence that energizes and guides our efforts, and brings us to realms of grace that are beyond, way beyond, anything we can achieve by our own efforts alone.”
God Doesn’t Protect Yet Sustains
The understanding that God as a universal presence protects us from nothing, while sustaining us in all things, is prevalent as we maneuver the process of aging.
“The Mystery of the Cross assures us that God watches over us; it does not mean that God prevents the tragic thing, the cruel thing, the unfair thing from happening” (James Finley).
God is present in these moments, perhaps imperceptibly for some, but the feeling of oneness with an infinite love during the trials of life and life in general is continuous every moment of our lives up to and through death, and beyond (Finley).
The metaphor of human beings as fruit is one that Jesus uses in his parables. If one thinks that the infant is a seed or sprout of the fruit, and that fruit continues to ripen throughout a lifetime, it fulfills itself in reaching its full potential to bring us pleasure (actual fruit as well as children).
A Source of Nurture to Others
We do not transform or ripen for ourselves alone but are transformed in order to be a source of nurture to others; we are never in this life alone.
Too often, myself included, we shy away from trying new things as an elder.
There can be many reasons why:
I’ve already been in that position or done that thing.
I don’t want to appear vulnerable in my physical limitations.
I have no passion for that ministry.
Or the truest, wanting to allow younger people the opportunity to be in leadership and become invested in the church community and strive toward its future well-being, which is extremely important.
When we look at our lived experience, and come to terms with the fact that — in all that we have been through — Love has been using us for its own purposes (Finley), we can rest on those laurels.
We never stop ripening until the day we pass away. Taking that to heart, we hear what Jesus tells us about being part of the vine with branches: “I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in me, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up and thrown into the fire to burn” (John 15).
Continuing to Ripen
Where can you see yourself continuing to ripen, remaining part of the branches?
Hilliard United Methodist Church is so dear to me and has been and continues to be a huge part of my life. It has formed me into who I am today.
As I look around the church, I’m delighted to see so many young families, many of whom are new to our church since the pandemic.
One of the things that has drawn them here is the Godly Play curriculum, a chance for our children to learn to question, wonder, and respond to the stories of God that shape our faith.
Currently, Godly Play has only two volunteers other than the staff leaders, Lindsay Robinson and Nikki Buskirk. I intend to volunteer for Godly Play and help nurture and spread Love to our young people. I may not be able to sit on the floor, but God always makes a way, and I will find it with the help of others.
All of us will pass away. Jesus tells us, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it brings forth a hundred-fold, a thousand-fold” (John 12:24).
What Will You Do as You Age?
What will you do as your fruit / life continues to ripen?
There are so many areas in our church where elders are needed and valued. Being with children, youth, and young and not-so-young adults may provide unexpected blessings that will sustain us as we edge toward forever love and the deathless depths of God.
Dr. Marilyn Hoeflinger
HUMC SPPRC Chairperson (personnel committee)
mshoeflinger @ gmail.com