When visiting Dr Gus throughout 2021, he would often circle back to a common observation about his tiredness and physical weakness, wondering why the Lord had not called him and Louise home yet. “You are an example to us Gus,” I would answer, “of how to age with grace”.
Ecclesiastes helps us to see that life begins in weakness, then it mounts to a zenith of strength before descending back into destined weakness and weariness. We call it the sunset years, but we might also call it our pilgrimage beckoning us back to the genesis of our weakness.
There is a proverb that haunts me: “Tired men make mistakes.” I do. Weakness is my God-assigned shadow, and it grows longer. I’ve lived long enough to see emotionally drained people blunder. I do too
On campus, Christine and I are genuinely respected, but we are the weakest adults, first in language and second in physical strength. We are also the last to know about what is going on in the community. When I work in the blazing sun, I also own the weakest skin… mine burns! The most common greeting on campus is: “How is your fatigue?” While we laugh much, we all wear our weariness.
The students, in turn, are from the weakest Baatonou churches, weak in schooling, weak in finances, but strong in so many other ways: faith, health, and family relationships. Our Bible School campus is a study in weakness and weariness yet balanced by zeal and prayer. So, we glory in our weakness even if weariness and my peccadillos haunt me.
The truth of Christ’s weakness also stirs me: “he was crucified in weakness” writes Paul.As a historian I have read how churches were also ‘crucified in weaknesses’ under persecution from militant religions. Is this not a current portrait of the Body of Christ in northern Nigeria and eastern Burkina Faso? Such truths trouble me. Yes, I think much of our human frailty and the mistakes of tired men.
So, how is our fatigue? Our favourite Baatonou reply is, “We thank God that it is equal to our strength.” We pray.