Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ever Green and Full of Sap


I love old people. One day I will be old and I hope I will still be loved. (To my eleven-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son, I am old and they still love me.)

Have you heard the story of "The Wooden Bowl"?
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.

The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about Grandfather," said the son. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor". So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed their dinners together.

Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.

The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when you get old." The four year old smiled and went back to work.

The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.

"Honor your father and mother" is a command that we never outgrow, but is too often neglected. Our youth-oriented culture doesn't square with most of the cultures of the world throughout history. The aged have usually been revered. And is Scripture there are specific references to the godly aged.
[The righteous] still bear fruit in old age; they are ever green and full of sap...
Psalm 92:14

Eugene Peterson comments: "The life of faith does not deteriorate or wear out. The longer we praise God, the more vigorous we become. There is a flourishing of faith that properly comes to its most lively expression in the later years." I've seen this many times over. Some of my favorite people on the planet are godly men and women that have continued to "grow in grace and the knowledge of God" well into their 80s and 90s. They are "ever green and full of sap."

Bill Iverson is one such man (pictured above). I saw him recently at our church's General Assembly in Nashville for the first time in 8 or 9 years. He is still "vigorous and flourishing in the faith." He is still actively sharing the gospel with others and busy helping to plant a church in downtown Newark. His son (a missionary in Japan) and his grandson (a missionary in India) were also there. I had to introduce Heather and my kids to him, and without hesitation Bill started playing ball with my three-year-old Ellie.

I love old people!

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