Sound Advice

Knock, knock! 

Who’s that at the door? Is it the man from Amazon again? I’ve already taken in three parcels for my neighbours down the road. Why am I always the bridesmaid, and never the blushing bride?

Knock, knock, knock!

Hang on, hang on! Be patient! I open the door, ready to go into my act of inspecting the outside of the door for damage - but I don’t bother, because it’s someone I know.

"Hi, I’m not stopping, I’m just doing the rounds. Are you in?”

I am. “Are you coming in?”

"Well, just for a minute. I’ve still got all these to deliver.” He pulls out a couple of cards from the bundle in his hand and passes them over to me.

It’s that time of year again, when people with lots of friends and relatives decide to walk or drive round town in order to deliver their Christmas cards, rather than paying a vast amount of money for postage and taking a chance that they won’t get there at all. 

I ask my visitor if he’d like a tea or a coffee. “No thanks, I’ll have one when I get up to Arran’s.” He hasn’t even time to sit down, he says; but, can he have a look at my cellar? 

An odd request? No, not really. He’s been a keep-fit enthusiast for much of his adult life, and he knows that I’ve been exercising in order to alleviate my chronic back problem. He’s interested in what I’ve been doing.

I follow him down the stone steps into the cellar. I note that he still has a fine, full head of hair, and he carries himself erect, despite his age. As I’m showing him various items of equipment, and he’s nodding his approval, I also see that he has no trace of that pot belly that so many older men seem to carry around with them. Soon, he’s telling me how often he goes to the gym, and how it’s kept him young and fit and flexible. If there is pride in his voice, I don’t blame him for it. He’s put in the work over the years, and he deserves to be pleased with what he’s achieved.

He demonstrates a couple of triceps exercises, asking me questions as he does so. It’s then that I notice it.

If I answer him while he’s looking away from me, then, when his head comes round again, he looks at me questioningly. I repeat my answer, and he nods. He bends forward, upper arm parallel with his torso, forearm sweeping back and up, and asks me what I use the EZ curl bar for. I tell him. He straightens up, and asks me again. 

Yes, I should have remembered. He’s hard of hearing: so much so that he can’t carry on a conversation in a crowded room, and he can’t follow the dialogue in a TV soap opera unless he brings up the subtitles. From then on, I speak up and out, but it’s still a struggle for him unless he can see my lips moving at the same time.

Why won’t he wear a hearing aid? “I’m just a bit hard of hearing, I’m not deaf. People just mumble, they don’t speak clearly. No, I don’t need a hearing aid, because I’m not deaf!”

But he is.

Is he unwilling to admit it because he associates it with age and infirmity? But, as the hymn writer Robert Grant has it in “O Worship The King”, we are only “Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail”, even when we’re in what we think of as the prime of life. Why be so vain in old age, if it leaves you isolated and incapacitated?

My own hearing is good, but my sight is poor. I’ve worn glasses from an early age, moving on to varifocal lenses a decade or so ago. I’ve never had any sense of shame or a feeling of inferiority because I’ve needed to wear them. I even thought that they made me look more intelligent, more intellectual, as a younger man…which just goes to show, not only how wrong you can be, but also that I’m as vain as the next man - which is him, at this moment in time.

In another minute, he’s on his way to his next port of call. As I watch him drive away, I remember how argumentative he can be, on occasion. We’ve always got on well, but he has no time whatsoever for anything to do with religion. I remember one angry remark, delivered with a peculiar vehemence: “I tell you what - when I see that god of yours, I’ll have a few words to say to him!”

He’s half right. One day he will see Him; but on that day, he will have no more to say to Almighty God, the maker of heaven and earth, than a dead fly has to say to me when I pick it up by one wing and drop it into the fire. 

Jesus said: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5.3.) Why so? 

Every human being (except Jesus) is spiritually destitute in God’s sight, but only those who see this poverty - who mourn over sin and thirst for righteousness - will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Paul notes the same principle in Romans 9.30-31. (R. C. Sproul.)

Well then, those of us who have Chosen To Follow Christ and Made A Decision For Him and Asked Him To Come Into Our Lives can congratulate ourselves that we had eyes to see and ears to hear, I suppose?

No, not really. That would simply be one more instance of the vanity of man.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6.44.)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light. (1 Peter 2.9.)

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8.28-31.)

Exercise is fine, and I’m happy to follow my visitor’s example in that area of life; but when it comes to everything else, I would be much better served by Paul’s advice to Timothy, in 1 Timothy 4.7-8. 

Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.