I did a small watercolor today. A very vivid sunset sky. A snow sugared pine tree. I wasn’t satisfied. I got frustrated, and ripped it in half. Suddenly, it looked right. My rip had cropped the painting into focus. I placed the much smaller painting into a pre-cut card holder. It fit perfect, and the effect was lovely. Smaller. Simpler. Lonelier. The impact I had hoped for all along.
In some respects this same process is at work in my life. My spiritual life. I still wake up most days with big plans. I daily expect and ask and demand too much of my Self. I remain determined to have it all, which consistently drains me dry of all energy and excitement. My time becomes a hopeless blur. Chaotic. Confused. A spinning top. I live in a fog of busy, and wander aimlessly in pursuit of perfection.
I have just lost a second wife, and a beloved colleague. My best friend and my long-time literary agent both battle cancer. I am still fragile after a heart attack and open heart surgery. I did let myself go physically, and I am paying the price. So, my future may not seem bleak, but it does come with a good sized portion of wary. I am conscious of needing to make good choices. Don’t waste time or talent! Try to do less and be more. Please God, not the crowd.
Aging is truly tenacious about getting our lives into focus. Reminding us of what matters and what does not. Advising us to clear out the clutter and cut the crap. Mentoring us on the wisdom in downsizing our dreams. Life has taught me a good deal about acceptance and tolerance, and in Patty and Walter, I studied with two masters of forgiveness. All and all, it is time to simplify. Narrow the lists. Put myself and my God on the list --- daily. Dream little. Make a little difference. Feel a little bit better.
I remain anxious about retirement. However, I can see the pieces beginning to fall into place. There are a few books I still wish to write and read. I love creating small paintings, and photos for personalized greeting cards. I want to develop 12 Step worship services, and I hope to find a way to help teens locate their souls. I want to enjoy a few friends. I want to take a few trips during Spring and Autumn. I want to preach my guts out. I want to teach whenever and wherever I am wanted. That is about it. More than enough.
Something else has come into focus recently. Something I have experienced mainly in the church. A faith which cannot forgive is not much of a faith. It is more a position or a posture than a faith. I work hard every day to forgive. I do so because I have come to realize that holding a grudge is Life’s premier waster of time. Life is way too short to hold tightly to how we have been wronged.
As Christians, we are called to be like Christ. Can you imagine Christ refusing to speak to someone on the basis of some presumed slight or failing? Ridiculous! There is nothing which puts us at greater distance from Christ, than a prideful choice to not forgive. No excuses here. When we hold onto our anger or hurt or disappointment, we are at odds with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is literally locked out of our lives.
I am shrinking. Some days shriveling. I am trying to embrace my age with dignity, and my retirement with integrity. I want my life to reflect a focus. To offer my gifts when and where I can. To keep on maturing – which is often the equivalent of practicing acceptance and forgiveness. To love as extravagantly and as often as I am able.
I will approach these quieter days with some watercolor wisdom. I will remember that every day can be cropped. A snip here and there. A new perspective. Even a shocking rip can transform something bland into something beautiful. Less is indeed more. Never give up. Find a way to enjoy every day. Somewhere inside each day, eternity is hidden. Out in the open. Under your nose. In your heart. Within a smile or chuckle or tear.
Here. Now. Focus. Then take the picture. Then find the heaven in it. Then put it up. Stare at it now and then, and remember. You can do this every day. You are older and wiser and have all the tools. At my age, I know better than to chase my worries and grudges around all day, it is time to chase only the beauty. Behold!
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.