As Christians, because we believe God greatly values the inner life of man, it’s a little easier to make peace with the physical peaks we face. Our aging bodies are calling cards from heaven to remind us of Who awaits us. But, lately, it’s the looming peaks in my inward life have caught me off guard. It seems as if some of me is fading away. My mind is slower. What I thought were inward strengths are not so strong.
Years ago, I wrote an article entitled, “You Don’t Peak with Jesus.” I wrote it in the thick of our homeschooling days, as I was learning how to teach my children how to be curious. My point was that in God’s created world, we never “peak” at knowing all there is to know because our Maker is infinite and He has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Writing that article helped me evaluate our little homeschool less with academic standards and more with a sense of wonder and curiosity. In those full days of home life, we sowed and sowed, and in my heart, I was expectant in the potential.
Potential is a powerful motivator. When we’re young, we set out with a vision to refine what God has given us. It’s a natural inclination: He planted this seed-vision in man when He told Adam to take dominion over the earth. It’s the same principle found in Jesus’ parable of the talents. We are to be active stewards, investing and developing our gifts according to the measure of grace He gives. Sowing in the early years was much like sprinkling a bag of mixed wildflower seeds on fallowed ground (some with abandon!) and waiting to see what would take root. As a young woman, wife, and mother, the expectation of what could be was the excitement in our life’s adventure.
Skip ahead a few years. Now, my homeschooling adventure is almost complete. God will complete His work in my children as He promises. Their lives still teem with potential. But what about mine? While the premise, “You Don’t Peak with Jesus” is still true, lately I find myself on some mountains with the sun behind me rather in front. And it’s a strange, disorienting feeling.
It’s not like I didn’t see it coming. Time has an unforgiving nature, applied to us all because of Adam’s choice. Just one look in the mirror or a brisk walk reminds me of his folly. Scripture, always honest with me, confirms what I experience: we are “outwardly wasting away.” While our bodies have value, they are only “jars of clay” holding the inward treasure of knowing Christ and His grace (2 Corinthians 4). For us women, the scriptures specifically remind us that “beauty is fleeting” and to adorn ourselves instead with the unfading inward beauty of meekness and a quiet spirit (Proverbs 31, 1 Peter 3).
As Christians, because we believe God greatly values the inner life of man, it’s a little easier to make peace with the physical peaks we face. Our aging bodies are calling cards from heaven to remind us of Who awaits us. But, lately, it’s the looming peaks in my inward life have caught me off guard. It seems as if some of me is fading away. My mind is slower. What I thought were inward strengths are not so strong. My motivations pulse weaker. Perhaps some skills are as honed as they will ever be. Perhaps some dreams will never be real. What I have stewarded as Potential has moved into the realm of What Is. As I cross into this realm, it is as if I’m tottering on the fulcrum between young men’s visions and old men’s dreams. I’m off kilter, trying to find my balance.
Thankfully, Scriptures refer to man’s soul as the imperishable inner part of who we are, not those things that are unseen in us. God values our inward soul so much that He came as Emmanuel and He sacrificed His physical body as an exchange for our hearts through forgiveness of His shed blood. His command to “keep your heart…for from it flow the springs of life” is a command to steward that for which He gave His life (Proverbs 4:23). So, the ultimate stewardship we have, regardless of age, ability or season, is to steward our souls with all vigilance. Other stewardships come and go.
As I seek my balance in these middle years, I remind myself that the principle “We Don’t Peak with Jesus” is still true. My soul will never peak. My body, yes. My mind, yes. And at some point, everything else. But not my soul. The one constant stewardship throughout every season is to “keep my heart” and be loyal to the One who has brought me thus far. The beautiful paradox in the command to “keep my heart” is that the keeping of my heart is not a stewardship of Potential. My heart is wholly, eternally and irrevocably hidden in Christ’s complete and perfect stewardship of What Is.
I’m grateful for my old friends Peter and Paul who faithfully point me to that “better country” still far off and remind me that this life’s temporal downhills are its spiritual assents, where I learn to shed the layers I have relied on for the journey home. The Good Shepherd whispers for me to trust His rod and staff so His comforting presence can steer and steady me as He leads me into new country. So, I step out, more and more by faith and less by sight, trusting more in my Savior’s stewardship of me than in my own—a stewardship that is less tangible but no less expectant, and indeed eternal
Sharon Smith Leaman is a member of New Life in Christ Church (PCA) in Fredericksburg, Va.