Dear Older Self,
On September 11, 2001 after the twin towers had fallen and the pentagon had taken a direct hit you listened to an interview on the evening news with Mr. Rogers. The question that was put to him was this: “When terrible, scary things happen, what do we tell our children?” Mr. Rogers’ response was, “We should ask our children if they noticed all the helpers.“
Often when we find ourselves afraid it is because we are looking into the unknowns of the near or the distant future and worrying about the difficulties we are likely to face, while forgetting that helpers, and God who- is-our-Help will be there with us.
What I hope you have continued to notice, dear older self, is that when you actually arrive at a point in time that was once part of a future story you had feared, you have often been surprised, even astonished, by the help and provision that greeted you.
Remember when you were worried about the future as you contemplated making a significant change in your work situation? You wanted to make this change but as you thought about the possibility of going through with it your mind went dark with fear and dread. You imagined you would go broke. You imagined you would cause financial ruin for your family. You imagined it would lead to disaster.
Then one night soon after you began thinking and praying about this decision you had an unexpected dream. In your dream you were sitting in front of a crackling fire in a cozy cottage with a wonderful, wise older man. He held a large book on his lap. The book’s pages were edged with gold. He was telling you the story of a Father who loved his child dearly, and who ached for her to know that she was loved. As he talked, you began to realize that this man was God, and that you were the child that was loved. The man opened the book and began to turn the pages, showing you the story of your life. At first the pages turned slowly so you could see and review events from your life. You saw how you had been loved and cared for through it all. Then the pages began to turn rapidly, so that you could only catch glimpses. You saw that everyone’s story was there, all intertwined, all interconnected. You saw that all were loved and held in love. And you knew. You knew all was well. You knew your story, and everyone else and their stories were held in God’s loving care. You woke in a state of profound peace.
The dream gave you the courage you needed to move forward with the changes you wanted to make. The future that you once imagined to be full of fear and dread, never happened. Instead of all the disasters you imagined you experienced gift after gift of God’s goodness, help and presence. This doesn’t mean everything was easy. There were challenges. But you have never had to face them alone. There were always helpers. And God was always with you giving wisdom, strength and grace.
Dear older self, I know you can recount many, many stories like this. You can tell story after story of the ways God has helped you in the past.
I do know that you are going to continue to struggle with worry. You will probably worry about many of the same things you watched your elderly friends and family worry about. You will probably worry about your health and about finances. You might worry about being a problem or a burden. You might worry about how you are going to be able to take care of yourself. You might worry about your death and about the loved ones you will be leaving behind.
But please do not let your worries consume you like they consumed the hope and joy of some of the elderly people you have cared for. Do not let fear rule your thoughts and your life. Please remember that your worries about the future are only imaginary scary stories. The future is actually full of possibilities for mercy and grace and goodness to surprise you again —just as they have in the past. Just as God has helped you in the past, God will help you in the future.
It can be very helpful to spend time recounting the many ways God has helped you throughout your life. You have been on the receiving end of God’s provision and healing and guidance so many times.
Make it a practice to take time to reflect on these memories. Recount them, share them, write about them, express your gratitude over and over again for them.
This will help you to pray with new peace and expectancy. Remembering God’s help in the past will help you develop greater trust. It will help you exchange your images of the future as a place to be feared for a sense of expectancy that goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.
This meditation is taken from Notes to Our Older Selves: Suggestions for Aging With Grace by Juanita Ryan and Mary Rae. You can get a copy at Amazon.com