However, this time, with just the one bag, I only made it four steps before I turned back to my SUV and dumped the bag back down in the back. Then I walked to Grandma’s house, retrieved the heavy-duty cart we purchased for her to use for groceries, put all three bags in the cart, and wheeled them up to her house. All the while I thought, “I used to could.”
“I used to could.” I use the phrase almost daily. Especially when it comes to tasks that are more physically demanding. . .like cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood, laying the 16 x 16 Lakestone patio blocks I’m using for sidewalks and a patio at my house, getting up on the roof to roof-tar the flashing, taking out the pier, or. . .tying my shoelaces. Arthritis, crushed nerves and neuropathy can sometimes make even the smallest chores—like trying to grab a wiggly, squiggly crappie minnow off my pontoon’s deck--an Olympic-games challenge that lasts several minutes.
“I used to could.” You won’t find that phrase in any proper English grammar. Nor will you find this phrase in the Bible. But the thought is captured in verses we often share at funerals. Consider Moses’ observation recorded in Psalm 90:10. “The days of our lives add up to seventy years, or eighty years if we are strong. Yet the best of them are trouble and sorrow, for they disappear quickly, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10) Yet Moses lived to be 120 and even then his “eyes had not grown dim, and his vigor had not declined.” (Deuteronomy 34:7)
So perhaps we want a second opinion? Then what about these inspired words from St. Paul? “We are not discouraged. But even if our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day. Yes, our momentary, light trouble produces for us an eternal weight of glory that is far beyond any comparison. We are not focusing on what is seen, but on what is not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things that are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18) Most historians feel that Paul only lived to be 60 or so when he was martyred for the faith. And Paul’s martyrdom came after a life filled with “momentary, light trouble” that included being imprisoned, whipped, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, and in constant danger—not to mention many a sleepless night, going without food, drink, and freezing with little shelter or clothing. (2 Corinthian 11:23-27)
Compared to Paul, my “used to could” complaints sound more than a little whiney. Especially when I view the aging process through Paul’s perspective. Life here is momentary, like the grass and flowers that are dying down now in the fall. (Psalm 103:15) Aches, pains, and diminished strength are just signs that we are living in a sin-broken world. Our bodies break down, wear out. This life in this world won’t go on forever.
But, praise God, by faith we look ahead to what will last forever! Heaven! Our LORD! All our Christian loved ones gathered together through eternity in a perfect place that is forever safe! Free from terror, crime, sickness, sorrow, and pain! Instead we will be wrapped in the peace of God, bought and paid for by Jesus, “an eternal weight of glory that is far beyond comparison” to any “used to could.”
Privileged to serve,
Rev. Glenn Schwanke