Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am (Psalm 39:4).
When I was a lad, “I’m next” was a wonderful place to be: next in line for a ride at the fair or for carrying my plate to the smorgasbord. With some friends, parents, and in-laws out of the line now, being next doesn’t seem all that exciting.
I’ve been next in line to get back into school after recess and in lines all the way to a late college graduation. I’ve been in too many lines for jobs and three eternities of standing in line in the military.
Once I finished my military time, I faced lines for college and jobs. I was next to get married, after my sisters, and have children. After I married, I still was in line for my BS and MS degrees. I thought there was no end to lines I stood in.
In 1988, I stepped over the fifty-yard line of life and headed downhill. I started to appreciate the simple things in life: the blessings and burdens of home ownership, maintaining a yard, raising active children, sump pumps, parking spaces, and clean sheets on the bed — to say nothing of the increasing love of a good wife.
I stood in line to sign up for Medicare and became one of the aging ones. Throughout my life, lines have spread out like the Alaskan prospectors climbing the Chilkoot Trail during the Klondike Gold Rush. Now in my eighties, I’ve stood in line to be fitted with glasses, to be treated for diabetes and for a heart attack, and to be airlifted to a large medical center.
Three years ago, the crème de la crème: a set of hearing aids. Since then, a few more health issues. A month on the calendar looks like a local doctor directory.
After I graduated from high school, I worked on a truck dock from ten to twelve hours a day making some trucks empty and some full, without a hint of weariness. Now I have to pay someone to do my yard work. Sometimes my wife and daughter drive me to the doctor’s office or a clinic just as we used to do for our folks. I see the reflection of Mom and Dad as they gracefully stood near the front of their lines and surrendered their grip on active lives.
Now at eighty-four, my line is shorter, and I’m at the head of it. My entire attitude on life has changed, with a clearer view of the end of the line. I never had any guarantee the end of my line would be easy. Would I be at the head of the line for a long or short time?
Many family and friends of mine are bearing up under difficulties I do not know. They wear their struggles well. For me, the neuropathy around my waist from shingles is painful and makes me weak and constantly tired. Others do not make a public display of their issues, and I’m learning to not make an issue of mine.
But with all that I am about to let go of, I join the greatest line of all. To paraphrase Dr. Martin L. King Jr., “I’m next. Thank God almighty, I’m next!” I’m next to step over Jordan and be lifted by the nail-pierced hands of Jesus. He was with me in every long line I ever stood in: exciting lines, fearful lines, and dangerous ones too. Now I’m at the head of the line to face my Savior and say, “Thank You, Lord, for saving my soul.” I will never be next again.
Roy Swanberg writes from