It’s a beautiful thing when the saints march in. Not just any saints. Gray-haired saints. These have walked longer roads, endured more suffering, and persevered for more contentment than those following behind. In a world that loves the young and exalts the new and less tried, it’s still profoundly beautiful when the saints come marching in.
The Easter sun had freshly set and only a few hours remained on the day we celebrate Jesus’ victory over death when God raised my dad to new life in heaven. I don’t know words for that day yet, or the days before it or after it. Maybe they’ll come, or maybe God will keep them in the bottle He fills with our tears. (Psalm 56:8) But I have words for the saints who marched in around us during those days.
Intrepid, they are. Unapologetic. Determined. Generous. Insistent. Compassionate. Practical. Relentless. Their strength has been forged by loss of their own. Babies lost before they ever laughed. Children who grew up but left too soon. Parents who slipped away without last words. Spouses who left them in empty houses. They came because they know. And while they forget a lot of things, they remember what matters.
There’s so much to deter the elder saints. Pain stirs their own memories. And the Intensive Care Unit makes them feel like it might not be okay to come in, but they do it. And their income is limited, but when the family needs chicken and ham and crackers and paper plates, they buy it. Making food, standing by the beside, wiping tables, and carrying flowers makes their backs hurt, but they do it. The ride over the mountain is really too far, but they do it. And they have to drive home in the dark, but they do it. And the old songs are so full of memories that their eyes fill and their hearts swell, but they sing them. My dad was such a marcher, but in his loud absence, I watched a great cloud of saints flow through, and with them I felt the fresh wind of faith and the strong arm of courage that came with them. Yes, when the saints come marching in, it’s a beautiful thing.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
There’s no doubt youth is its own gift. But even with cafes instead of fellowship halls and drum sets instead of pipe organs, the Body still desperately needs to make room for the saints to march in. Do you have a gray-haired saint in your life? Are there older ones mixed with younger ones around you?
In the last few months I’ve noticed the re-emergence of saints in prominent places of influence just in my small circle. Jill Briscoe at the IF Gathering. Tonda and her team organizing the women’s spring event where I spoke at Harvest New Beginnings, before the call and the flight and the decisions and the changes. And the stream of saints into room 1 at the hospital, through the front door of my parents’ house, across the uneven cemetery ground, down the sanctuary aisle, at the church doors greeting friends, and in and out of the kitchen more times than we’ll ever know at the reception. Yes, “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31)
I like to think I’m in between young and the old, though I have more gray hair than I like to reveal. What a gift to have my heart and mind filled with fresh images of what it looks like to be a serving saint who marches in when there’s a pain or a loss or a need. It’s a beautiful thing.
Dear saints, thank you.
Oh when the saints go marching, I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.