The Old Person at the End of Your Road
In the epilogue of my first book, The Seven Most Important Questions You’ll Ever Answer, I shared a reading that has marked me since the first time I discovered it many years ago. It is titled, “The Little Old Man.” The author is unknown but the insights will challenge you.
“You’re going to meet an old man someday down the road – ten, thirty, fifty years from now – waiting there for you. You’ll be catching up with him.
“What kind of old man are you going to meet? That’s a rather significant question. He may be a seasoned, soft, gracious fellow, a gentleman who has grown old gracefully, surrounded by hosts of friends, friends who call him blessed because of what his life has meant to them. Or he may be a bitter, disillusioned, dried-up old buzzard without a good word for anyone, soured, friendless, and alone.
“The kind of old man you will meet depends entirely on yourself, because that old man will be you. He’ll be the composite of everything you do, say, and think today and tomorrow. His mind will be set in a mold you have made by your beliefs. His heart will be turning out what you’ve been putting into it. Every little thought, every deed goes into this old man. He’ll be exactly what you make of him. It’s up to you. You’ll have no one else to credit or to blame.
“Every day and in every way you are becoming more and more like yourself. Amazing, but it’s true. You’re beginning to look more like yourself, think more like yourself, talk more like yourself. You’re becoming yourself more and more. Live only in terms of what you’re getting out of life, and the old man gets smaller, drier, harder, crabbier, more self-centered. Open your life to others, think in terms of what you can give, your contribution to life, and the old man grows larger, softer, kindlier, greater.
“The point to remember is that these things don’t always show immediately. But they’ll show up sooner than you think. Those little things so unimportant now – beliefs, attitudes, ambitions – they’re adding up inside where you can see them, crystallizing your heart and your mind and someday they’ll harden into that old man. Nothing will be able to soften or change them.
“The time to take care of that old man is right now. Today. This week. Examine his values, his motives, his attitudes. Check up on him. Work him over while he’s still plastic, still in a formative condition, because the day comes awfully soon when it’s too late. The hardness sets in worse than paralysis. Character crystallizes, sets and jells. That’s the finish.
“Any wise businessman takes inventory regularly. But his merchandise isn’t half as important as he is. Better take a bit of personal inventory. We all need it, and by keeping this check on ourselves, you’ll be much more likely to meet a splendid old fellow at the proper time. A fellow you’d like to be.”
As I think about the “Little Old Man” I hope to meet someday, I realize that every choice, every day, matters – and shapes the man I am becoming. The Scriptures frame it with clarity: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Here are three investments that are essential for the happy encounter with the little old person at the end of your road.
Invest in a Hopeful Future Through Healthy Attitudes Today
The Apostle Paul was not just a great church planter, writer, and leader. He was a great thinker. His worthwhile thoughts shaped his life. In communicating his choices of attitude and approach, he wrote, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9). Paul was an example of sowing godly thoughts in the soil of his life, ministry, and network of friends. This is why his very difficult life was marked by a consistently triumphant attitude in Christ.
Sadly, many Christians habitually embrace the opposite altitudinal choices. They believe lies, embrace petty concerns, whine about their circumstances, focus on the negative, and cultivate a complaining spirit. As a result, they sow seeds that will one day result in a lonely, unfulfilled, isolated, and hopeless old man or woman at the end of the road.
Invest in Rewarding Relationships Through Loving Service Today
Proverbs 18:1 says, “A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” People who withdraw from others are self-centered, thinking more of their own insecurities and problems than the needs of others. Opportunities abound every day for every one of us to invest in other lives and purposeful causes. Galatians 5:13-14 reminds us that the opposite of a carnal existence is a life that serves others in genuine love: “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’"
Rather than a fleshly, withdrawn existence we are commanded to “be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.” Is this a picture of the kind of relationships you enjoy on a regular basis? If so, that little old person just ahead on the road will be surrounded by loving friends who are genuinely grateful for your selfless love and service. If not, you may face a lonely conclusion. The choice is yours – today and every day.
Invest in Continuous Growth Through Grace-Empowered Transformation Today
In contrast to the rather fatalistic tone of the opening reading, I believe it is never too late to experience a life-changing grace that can turn a sour-puss into a spiritually vibrant saint. Grace can replace bitterness with forgiveness, loneliness with intimacy with Jesus, and selfish attitudes with a Spirit-controlled life of blessing. Truly, He can transform us “from glory to glory” by the power of His Spirit as we seek His face and invite His power to make us more like Jesus.
So, as we continue one day at a time down the road of life, we have choices with every step. Choose well and you will meet a little old man who is an attractive and Christ-honoring overcomer as he steps across the finish line into eternity. Guaranteed.
Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.