What Do Old Ministers Talk About?

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A thoughtful member of our church sent me the following quote of C. S. Lewis who wrote about being over-concerned about the past of others and of our own:

“We must beware of the Past, mustn't we? I mean that any fixing of the mind on old evils beyond what is absolutely necessary for repenting of our sins and forgiving those of others is certainly useless and usually bad for us.”

“Notice in Dante that the lost souls are entirely concerned with their past. Not so the saved. This is one of the dangers of being, like you and me, old. There's so much past now, isn't there? And so little else. But we must try very hard not to keep on endlessly chewing the cud. We must look getting a bit mixed here – but you know what I mean.” (From the Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Vol. III)

There are probably loving members in the communities of which I am part who agree that I should read these lines of C. S. Lewis carefully and do my gain with them. In the abstract I agree with them too, though I would not have thought I should be counted immediately among those whom C. S. Lewis addresses...

And I suppose that's exactly where my problem lies. I am probably not fully aware that I dwell unduly on the past. When I talk with younger pastors I slip in a bit of explanation how we, in our day, preached twice a Sunday, did all the family visiting, taught all the catechism classes, and did all the administration. And while I have mined that part of my life, I will find occasion to relate some of the heroics of my grandchildren.

Well, fortunately, it's not that bad with me. But C. S. Lewis never spoke without a cause. From him I may now learn again that when I will have the privilege of talking with my younger colleagues, I will focus with them on their ministry, in their time, around their situations. I will remind myself that these are not easy times for our ministers, that they are struggling with plenty of problems of which we didn’t know much in “my day”.  And when we talk about their ministries in these times, I may find occasion to slip in a word of encouragement, and may just add that I understood what they told me.

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Well put.  Thank you for saying that.