Progressive disability from multiple sclerosis forced me to retire far too early in my career with the Canadian civil service. I was thirty-eight, still a young man, and had to live on a modest disability pension. That did not sit well with my Type A personality. I sank into clinical depression as disease kept ravaging my body, forcing me into stillness and eventually, after bitter anguish, contemplation. Days, months and years were spent convalescing. Seasons passed. My children grew up and married. Grandchildren were born and grew up and have begun to marry. My wife’s and my hair turned white. Still, that small voice whispered, “Be open to love as it comes to you for in love you will find God.” To my surprise and delight, I discovered it was true. New revelations about love (both human and divine) came to me in our little, red-roofed house with its yard shrouded from the world by a massive hedge.
I still sit with my morning coffee and look at successive generations of blue jays coming into the yard. At night, I can stand there contemplating the vastness of the heavens above me. God raised me from the wheelchairs I used for many years. The creeping paralysis that marred my adult life— beginning as a young man—receded like the tide. I stood and walked again as an old man.
The words of Victor Hugo come to me from his great novel Les Misérables:
“What more was needed by this old man who divided the leisure hours of his life, …Was not this narrow enclosure, with the sky for a background, enough to enable him to adore God in His most beautiful as well as his most sublime works? Indeed, is not at all, and what more can be desired? A little garden to walk, and immensity to reflect upon. At his feet something to cultivate and to gather; above his head something to study and meditate upon: a few flowers on the earth, and the stars in the sky.”
The Psalmist wrote: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; they are a marvellous display of his craftsmanship. Day and night they keep telling about God. Without a sound or word, silent in the skies, the message reaches all the world.”
Yes, it does.
The meaning of my life did not come in a thunderclap of a potentially successful career that was smothered before it really began. It came in a gentle breeze of the ordinary rhythms of life. The purpose of my life is here with those I love, and within the greater and perfect love of Christ.