Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Life Well Lived

I've realized that my mind turns in different circles than most.  Do you remember the children's game of trying to figure out which one of the things didn't fit in with the rest?  Well, that's me...the one that doesn't match the others...odd girl out.  

Here's a case in point...  Retirement.  Dreams of retiring comfortably simply don't exist in my goals.  Entering one's "golden years" in style appeals to me about as much as watching paint dry.  Saving, collecting, investing money for retirement...it's the thing to do...everyone says so.  Work is supposed to dwindle down, and comfort is to be escorted in.  And yet, my mind spins in an entirely different realm.

Sometimes I find a kindred spirit who truly understands my soul.  Oftentimes, it's someone from the pages of history, living in bygone days.  Jonathan Goforth was one such person.

Jonathan Goforth lived from 1859-1936.  He was a missionary to China, who lived through the infamous Boxer Rebellion, where many foreigners were killed in China during a time of great unrest in the country.  Jonathan's story is a page-turner.  

One thing that struck me was how he spent his "retirement years."  At the age of 56, after many years of hard work in China, "no one would have blamed (him) for retiring, but that word was not in Jonathan Goforth's vocabulary!  There was work to do, and while he sill had breath, he would do it."

Nine years later, he was quoted as saying, "I am sixty-five today...Oh how I covet more than a miser his gold, twenty more years for this soul-saving work."  

Closer to the end of his life, many people asked him if he was going to retire.  His answer was always: "I'm not going to sit in a rocking chair and wait to die, not while there is work to be done!"

At the age of 67, Jonathan headed into Manchuria, yet another area that had not heard the Gospel message.  Living conditions were harsh, and that winter was the coldest on record.  A plague hit and wiped out 1/3 of the people.  Yet, Jonathan worked tirelessly to bring the Gospel to everyone he could.

At age 69, he set out on a brand new adventure to bring the Gospel to yet another area.  Within 2 weeks, 400 people had become Christians.

When Jonathan was hit with illness, he pressed on.  He had a severe jaw infection that kept him bed-ridden for 4 months, but he used the time to go through his old missionary journals with his son, who made the stories into a book.  When he lost the sight out of one of his eyes, he used his down-time to dictate another book, Miracle Lives of China.  And, when struck again with losing the sight out of his other eye, a completely blind Jonathan Goforth still discipled many people with the Scripture he had filed away in his memory.  Absolutely nothing would stop him from doing the work God had given him to do.

At age 77, he finally left the mission field and returned to Canada to speak in churches and to ignite a fire of passion for others to go to Asia as missionaries.  He averaged speaking 10 times every week.  No rocking chairs and plush slippers for this gutsy man!!    

On his last day of life, he spoke at a church service, came home late at night and climbed into bed.  He woke up in Heaven, having breathed his last on earth.  He had lived 77 years.

When my children and I read the last page of his biography, I determined that I want to live as he did.  I want to die as he did, having given everything...every breath, every muscle, every last inch of my being and life for the work God has given me to do.  No complacency.  No "I-have-arrived," but rather "I-am-still-on-the-journey." 

I believe Jonathan Goforth's life was lived well.  Given the choice between his life and one of working for money and retiring in comfort, I'd take the former.  

But, then again, my mind turns in different circles than most....

(**All quotes are from the biography, Jonathan Goforth: An Open Door in China, by Janet and Geoff Benge**)

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