Not too long ago I went to visit my grandfather in the nursing home. There he sat, staring almost through me, Alzheimer’s slowly eroding away even the limited memory he had left. I spoke up, “Grandpa, it’s me, Michael.” He just looked at me with a vacant stare. I am not totally sure I connected with him at all. It is hard to believe that he was once Dr. Colaw, a brilliant influential leader. He even had a building named after him at a university. I have many memories of conversations with him in his home talking about the purpose of life, leadership strategies, even how to deal with situations that just deeply frustrated me. There I sat gazing into the same face, yet it didn’t seem like the same man.
I miss my grandpa.
Sometimes I wonder why God lets that happen. Not just the Alzheimer’s, the whole system. Sometimes I feel like life is backwards. Let me see if I can explain. Like I said, Grandpa was intelligent, a great leader, a sought after speaker, and an amazing mentor to me. All of his life experiences helped shape him into a remarkable man. Have you ever noticed people that finally begin to “get” their roles are at retirement age? Or that parents who finally begin to “get” how to raise kids are finished parenting? Or professors who finally become amazing teachers are at the end of their career? What about people who are masters at specific trades, like a craftsman? They spend years mastering something like woodworking and then their body gives out and arthritis kicks in. Why? Why is this the way life works? I know as a young man I have often been handed tasks a little life experience would have helped drastically with. Like parenting, leadership, or even marriage. We all have to start these with little or no experience and figure it all out from the beginning. Why is it that the best in their fields are often the ones nearing the end? It just seems backwards.
Unless the purpose is to be a conduit and not a reservoir… What if it is all about passing something along? What are you passing along?
Romans 5:3-5, “Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
As I look back, I now see what Grandpa was doing. Brilliant Dr. Colaw was infusing me with a time transcendent hope. ‘Hope in what?’ you may ask. Find a Bible and read the rest of Romans 5.