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Rethinking Our Past in the Third Third of Life

Published On February 24, 2023

In his Christmas letter this year, my friend R.D. Wilkes wrote, “I have been stimulated in my heart and mind by a thought – ‘Then—-was for Now.’ …the gist behind it is that our former years with all their trials and victories, sorrows and joys, tumults and satisfactions, desolations and ‘Eurekas’, deep discouragements and meaningful accomplishments are meant to provide us with great and meaningful opportunities to serve in these later years.”

‘Then—-was for Now.’ I think that is a good way for how we should be thinking of our third third years. What about “then” has prepared us for “now.” When I became the pastor of the Argyle Presbyterian Church in a little dairy farming community in upstate New York, I was grateful for all those Sunday afternoons when I was a kid that Dad took us out to visit dairy farms in the countryside around Philadelphia. At the time I thought it was boring, but it turned out to be good preparation for ministering to the dairy farmers in my congregation. Because of those Sundays I was used to cows and farms including the smells that lots of folks found offensive. BTW – although he was a city kid, my dad always wanted to be a dairy farmer and his first college degree was in animal husbandry. However, a war injury made it impossible to do the physical labor necessary in farming and so he had to settle for becoming a computer programmer. But his first love was cows and he shared that with his three sons. That “then” helped prepare me for the “now” of being a pastor in a dairy farming community.

I am convinced that God never wastes anything in our lives and if we pay attention, we’ll notice how God can use our past experiences, positive or negative, to serve people today. What experiences are a part of your “then,” that could be a resource for you helping someone “now?” In his Christmas letter R.D. said, “I won’t go further about it, but rather just submit it to you for your own ponderings.” I invite you to join me in pondering the insight that “Then…was for Now.”

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