When do the Lord’s plans for us run out?
Does He stop doing ‘new things’ after our eightieth birthday? Surely ninety is too old for His mercies to still be new every morning? Clearly, though, this is not the Biblical witness. Think of Abraham and Sarah. Think of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
Still, to many elderly men and women, entering a “senior living” facility symbolizes the end of life’s exciting adventures. At least, that’s what Sherry* thought when she moved into Belmont Village. After selling her home and handing over her bank accounts to her adult children, Sherry transitioned into what she assumed would be a quiet life of cribbage and quilting until her time in this world was up. Having been widowed for sixteen years, she believed that the best of her life was behind her. To her great surprise, however, some of her best days were yet to come.
Sherry has been a fervent and faithful Catholic her whole life-long. It was a deep sadness for her that her husband of so many years did not share her love and enthusiasm for the faith. He was fine with the kids being raised Catholic, but he was no praying man himself. Sherry dreamed of being able to go to Mass with her other-half, of sharing times of prayer and reflection together. But it was not to be so with her husband… at least, not with the first one.
Sherry never imagined, in her wildest dreams, that she would marry again at the age of ninety-one. But her friendship with her hallmate at Belmont, Charlie, was making her feel things she hadn’t felt since she was a teenager. When he walked into the room, she got butterflies in her stomach. Time in his presence passed without her notice. They seemed to just fit together, effortlessly, like hand in glove. After just a few months of knowing each other, Charlie asked Sherry to marry him.
There was no question in Sherry’s mind. This was meant to be. Far above and beyond the ease in their relating with one another was the spiritual life they were able to share together. Like Sherry, Charlie was a long-time devout Catholic. He attended daily Mass, and he made frequent visits to the chapel for times of prayer. Here, finally, was a man with whom Sherry could share not only her heart, mind, and body, but her soul as well. The local parish priest was, expectedly, surprised by the news of their engagement, but he was, nonetheless, supportive and encouraging of their new sacramental life together.
When I first met Sherry, only four months into her new marriage, she was aglow with the joy and love of her second union. It was such a wonderful blessing to meet with her and to hear her love story with Charlie. In addition to attending daily Mass and praying a daily rosary, Charlie and Sherry spent time together in the chapel each and every day, resting silently in the presence of the Lord and of one another. At ninety-two years old, Sherry said that she had never been happier.
My video calls with Sherry were incredibly reinvigorating for me. Her joy and her gratitude were both inspiring and challenging. At precisely the moment in her life when she surrendered most to the Lord—giving up her home and her familiar life—in order to follow where she felt He was leading her, Sherry received something she had longed for her entire life.
The Lord’s plans are always so much bigger and so much better than our own. I recognize many ways in which I limit the Lord’s action in my life by my attempts to manage my own happiness and my own ministerial success. Sherry has taught me the importance of surrendering my plans and my desires to the Lord, trusting in His providence and care. Although I may see an end in some personal or pastoral situation, it very well could be just the beginning.
Rightly does the author of Lamentations exclaim: “The Lord’s acts of mercy are not exhausted; his compassion is not spent. They are renewed each morning—great is your faithfulness! The Lord is my portion, I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him” (Lam. 3:22-24).
* All names of people and places have been changed to preserve privacy.