He stood before our church and preached. Each week, this figure in a dark suit opened the Bible and talked. I was in my later years of elementary school, so I don’t remember a lot about this man. But I do remember that when he preached, it seemed dull. I don’t think it was the suit or even the poor lighting. I don’t even think the dullness was because he was not particularly entertaining.
As I became older, I heard that this man had stopped studying a long time ago. In fact, according to this source, he basically preached through old sermon outlines that he had used many years earlier. Nothing new. Nothing fresh. It was in his voice. He sounded like a man whose clock had stopped a long time ago.
You’ve known a person like this, haven’t you? At some point in his or her life, this person basically shut down:
- The minister or professor who no longer studies. This person seems to have lost any sense of wonder.
- The empty-nest couple who park their minds and bodies in front of their television each evening.
- The young father or mother who seems to have forgotten the dreams they had of being used by God.
- The man in his early forties who regularly talks about being "old."
I don’t think that God ever meant for us to be this way. He created us with body, mind, emotions, the capacity to love and be loved. Yet, some of us shut down far too early.
A few suggestions:
1. Cultivate your sense of curiosity. One man in our church is in his late 80s and is more alive than others half his age. He leads a support group and regularly asks me for book recommendations. One doesn’t have to talk with him very long before realizing that he is fully alive!
2. Learn something new every day. This has become very important to me. I have found that one of the best ways to do this is by asking questions.
3. Listen. Perhaps you are with a group of people and several begin to talk about a subject about which you know nothing. Instead of trying to change the subject or getting frustrated, why not use this as an opportunity to learn something new? It is amazing how many people let opportunities to learn slip by instead of listening and learning. I have known some ministers and a few college professors who seem to have no interest in listening to other people and learning. (Some of these people are ready to preach or make a presentation but listening and learning may be another matter.)
4. Make small but deliberate changes in your routine. Read a different newspaper. Watch the news on a different station. Listen to music that you don’t normally listen to. Sit in a different coffee shop. Take a different route to work or to the university. Read from a different translation of the Bible.
5. Develop an interest outside your area of expertise. Look for an area in which you already have an interest and develop that. For instance, if you have always been fascinated by watercolor painting, bee-keeping, jazz, or fly fishing, why not develop this interest?
Bottom line: It is unnecessary to shut down prematurely. Yet, some of us will need to be very intentional about staying fully alive.
What has helped you stay fully alive, either physically, mentally, emotionally, or relationally?