Spot, Fuzzy and I enjoy walking down by Lake De Queen. If you look at that lake from way up in the air, it looks like a figure eight that has been mashed down from above. Both parts of the eight have become diamonds, balancing on the dam on the south end. The dogs and I walk on the north-east facet of the lower diamond, on an old road that is most often flooded in places, so there is not much motorized traffic. We were down there during the Thanksgiving break and, lo and behold, there was the wise old man, sitting on a five-gallon bucket, fishing with a cane pole.
Regular readers of this column are acquainted with the uncanny fact that the wise old man shows up every holiday somewhere, whether it be Texarkana, Westerville, Ohio, West Palm Beach, Florida or here closer to home. His comments are always droll and somewhat quirky, but, I have come to understand, there is method in his madness.
“Hello, sir, what are you doing down here?”
“That has to be a pretty dumb question, Dan. Where did you get your Ph. D.?”
“No, I can see that you are fishing, but what brings you to Lake De Queen?”
“Fishing,” he replied with a wry grin.
He pulled in a nice bluegill and arranged it on a stringer with six or seven other bream. He reached into a coffee can and fetched a nice red wiggler and re-baited, while Spot and Fuzzy watched with respectful interest.
I thought I would try another ploy, “How have you been?”
“I feel great. Old age has not brought me the preoccupation with aches and pains I hear so much about from the elderly I visit. Rather, it has brought me peace and contentment.”
“What’s your secret?”
“Now, if I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret, would it?”
“No sir, but I’m reaching the point in life when I crave advice for aging gracefully.”
“Now, Dan, that sentence contains the answer to your query. You used the word ‘gracefully’. You realize, I’m sure, that grace means you have a free gift that sustains you and keeps you fully living, eternally alive right now, a free gift that you did nothing to earn and can never deserve.”
“Yes, you are talking about salvation, sir, I’m asking about avoiding aches and pains.”
“Oh, I mistakenly thought you were asking me about abundant life. The kind that is full of fulfillment, peace, enjoyment, love, kindness, patience and much much joy.”
“You mean, sir, that the fruit of the Spirit keeps you from aches and pains?”
“In a sense, I am. Remember St. Paul saying that whatever state he was in, he had learned to be content?”
“Contentment with the life you have been given, walking in forgiveness, both giving it away and receiving it, makes the aches and pains of no consequence. The important thing is reciprocation. Just like, when I dangle a worm in the water, a nice fish reciprocates by biting it--when we forgive, God reciprocates by forgiving us. When we love, we get love in return. This deep knowledge about reciprocation brings contentment, that is, as long as we walk in forgiveness and love. Do you mind if I give your dogs a treat?”
“Not at all, sir.” He reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out a hunk of jerky. He bit off a couple of nice sized hunks and gave them to the dogs. They reciprocated by an extravagant display of friendship.
Daniel G. Ford, Ph. D.