During a recent hike, I came upon an older man who was also hiking. I saw him ahead of me, moving slowly along our shared path. He looked to be in his late 80’s and possibly his early 90s. He was dressed in leather hiking shoes, a red-checked Pendleton coat, and a brimmed felt hat. In his right hand was a walking stick. He was moving slowly, but with purpose.
As I passed the older man, I greeted him and kept moving. When I finally passed him, I turned around to look at him one last time, at which point he said, “Have a wonderful day.” He issued those words with a slight smile on his face. In that quick moment when I turned around and heard his kind words, I felt I was getting a glimpse of my own life somewhere in the future.
I hope to be doing what the older man was doing with such an air of peace and kindness and mobility. My ability to reflect the image of the old man is not up to God. It is up to me. God has already made all His decisions about my life, and they are all good decisions. Now, I must be the one to choose a life that reflects that goodness, so I can walk the trails of life with hope and expectancy.
Today, we are creating a version of our future self – the person who will walk the trails of our future. The person we become, whether we walk a wooded trail or an urban sidewalk, will not be created by protecting the illusion of youth. We can try to dye our hair back to a color that long ago departed or get a new wardrobe that is too young for our station in life or try to talk in hip tones. None of those attempts can touch our core. They only reflect activity on the surface of our life. Our future self is created by the investments we make today in the quality of our character, protecting our joy and how we choose to love others.
When I turned back around and continued down the trail at a younger and faster clip than the older man, I could not shake the impact of that encounter. It was a Spirit-empowered moment. As I navigate through the next decades of my life, I want to remember the expression on the face of the old man. He possessed something of true value that the passing of time could never jeopardize.