My friend Gloria loves lemon meringue pie. And I love making it.
So when Gloria was ready to come home from over three weeks in a rehab center after breaking her leg, I arranged to bring a meal to her family that included a lemon meringue pie.
Not my traditional kind from a Jello box, mind you. (Karen use a box for anything? That’s another story!) This was going to be the real from scratch pie made with a cornstarch syrup and fresh lemon juice.
The first step in making the filling for a lemon pie is to combine your sugar and cornstarch, add water, and heat, stirring constantly until the mixture boils. The instruction to stir constantly is important. You don’t want the mixture to stick and scorch. It’s also about a ten minute process. I don’t know about you but that’s a little to stand still for ten minutes when I could be multi-tasking. I kept leaving the stove to do other things – like separate my eggs, wash a dish or two, clean the counter, check Facebook . . . In the first few moments, I could get away with that. I discovered however, that as the syrup neared the boiling point, the more it needed my constant attention. My job was far from done. Even though I was tired of stirring, I had to stir more vigorously to keep it from scorching.
Working harder at the end than at the beginning is true of so many ventures. My Uncle Ron, a pilot, once told me that more accidents happen at landings than at take-offs. The pilot is tired, especially after a long flight, yet he has to pay attention to a lot of details in order to bring down that plane. The end of a marathon when legs are cramping and chests are heaving is not the time to slack and take it easy. Instead, runners bear down and run their best.
The news media industry has witnessed a series of top notch journalists like Dan Rather and Brian Williams who have ended their careers in disgrace. How tragic! Great newscasters, who should have ended their career on a high note, were forced from the jobs they loved – some because their past misdeeds caught up with them and others because a lapse in their professionalism cost them their high profile job.
It seems so counter intuitive. Whatever happened to the learning curve? Once we get the hang of something – whether making lemon pie, learning the nuts and bolts or a career, or following Jesus, shouldn’t there be a point when we get to coast? That’s what retirement communities want us to believe. Spend the golden years in The Villages, playing cards or golf, or dancing with our sweetheart on a dinner cruise as the sun sets into a sea of glory.
It’s just not like that. The moments that call for the greatest courage often come at the end of life or ministry, not the beginning. As I’ve heard so many older friends say, growing old isn’t for wimps.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus told his disciples things like “Be on your guard,” “Watch and pray,” and “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Paul said this in Philippians 3:14:
“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” That doesn’t sound like slacking near the end to me.”
It’s a little scary, isn’t it? I don’t know the future. I don’t know what challenges await me. I know what will happen to lemon syrup but I don’t know what my aging body will decide to do, whether there will be a Medicare program waiting for me, how I’ll maintain my independence, or whether my culture will continue to support my faith. There are days that the honeymoon period of a new ministry or the day-to-day drudgery of raising toddlers again looks mighty appealing.
Establish a good foundation. Develop a mindset that you will finish well. Push, don’t coast. Keep pushing. Choose now to not retire in place. Realize that anything you do, you are in it for the long haul and in the words in Winston Churchill, you will never give.
Develop good habits now. Train yourself in godliness. Just as a runner spends hours strengthening muscles and growing in endurance, we can train ourselves to be ready for the hard moments. Stay in the Word, keep reaching out to others, force yourself in small ways to get out of your comfort zone. Then, as a military saying goes, “training is tough; combat is easy.” What happened to Dan Rather and Brian Williams didn’t happen in a vacuum. Mindsets, attitudes, biases, and morality were in place long before they made choices that cost them their career. Get right with God now. Start treating those you love with respect and kindness now. Practice patience, perseverance, and grace toward others now. Know what you believe about Jesus and why now – before someone calls you to account for the hope that resides in you.
When birds caused the failure of both engines in US Airways Flight 1549, “Sully” Sullenberger was able to land his plane successfully on the Hudson River. All 156 passengers and crew survived. How could Sully do this? He had trained for this very scenario countless of times. When it actually happened, he was ready.
Team up with others. You can’t face those challenges alone. Build yourself a support system. Rely on the counsel and prayers of others. I’ve heard that women who survive widowhood the best are those who allowed themselves to develop hobbies, interests, and friendships outside the home. No matter how introverted we may think we are, we still need people. We need people who will hold us accountable, encourage us, give us counsel, and watch our backs through their prayers.
Trust in the Lord. He is your Strength, your song. You may not know what challenges life will hold, but He does. He knows what is coming. He even has a contingency plan of how the tough moments will hone your character, bring Him glory, and inspire and encourage others to follow in your footsteps of faith. He knows that for the Christian, the end is not the end. We work for the land beyond the finish line, the lemon pie beyond the heated syrup, the hug of a loved one after the plane has landed. We long for the undiscovered country where God will wipe away every tear.
I guess I might need some more practice making lemon meringue pies. Now if I could just get a team to help me eat them!