Play It Again
by Rich Mullins
Release Magazine March/April 1995
My grandparents all repeated themselves a lot. Every ten minutes or so their conversations would circle and start again, word for word. As
they got older an ever broadening range of suggestions became cues for an ever narrowing range of responses: "Yes, well, did I ever tell you
about that big storm we had in '39? ...Do you have your driver's license already? ...When did you graduate from high school? ...Why is it you
haven't married yet? ...We had a whopper rain back in...."
So, you can probably imagine how disturbing it was to me when, after writing a column for this issue of RELEASE - after sprucing and
polishing it to a fine shine and faxing it it - I realized that it was a nearly exact duplicate of an article I wrote back in '93, just before
"that big storm" I probably mentioned already (or have I?). Anyway, suddenly everything I thought about saying sounded weirdly like the echo
of what I had already said. This, of course, would not be so worrisome to a person with a quieter disposition or even to someone who had any
gift other than the "gift of gab." And, granted, imitation is a form of flattery, but that's only true if someone else is
imitating you. If you imitate yourself, you just sound conceited. Or old.
Now, I am not so naive as to imagine that people have not spotted some conceit in me. I know it's there and that I am not humble enough to
extinguish it or clever enough to disguise it. A person can overcome conceit though, through prayer and service and devotion. But no amount
of fasting or Bible memorizing or church attending will hold sway over aging. If we live long enough, we will get old. And as we get older we
will more and more repeat ourselves, as I have already begun to do. Repeatedly.
Not that I am a card-carrying member of the youth cult. I was awful at being young. My adolescence was riddled with that angst-ridden
morbidity that seethes with crushes, complexes and bad poetry. The "twenties" were the March of my life - in like a lion, out like a
lamb. They were predictably turbulent early on and dissolved into quiet desperation just before passing. At 30 I was relieved of the
responsibility to be "young and foolish" - I was not yet old and I was not still young. And God, who is good through all ages, had landed me at
last in a place of relative peace and even prosperity. Of course, just as I wasted my youth by being too goofy, I blemished
the high noon of my life by becoming a bit (this is so embarrassing), conceited. It's normal, I guess, but embarrassing
nonetheless. And so, God, being good still, is doing what He does, doing what I can't do and undoing what I have done.
God lets us struggle and lets us prosper - we don't all struggle and prosper the same, but we all do both to some degree. And when we
have done enough to think more highly of ourselves than we should, God lets us age. And as we age we begin to forget stuff, our joints stiffen,
our heads go a little soft. We drive slower and are less driven; are more embarrassed but less likely to die of that embarrassment and more
likely to die of natural causes. Getting old is part of getting past whatever illusion we have about ourselves. It is part of getting free
- free from reasonable doubts, irrational conceits, false securities, displaced affections...
And so, let me grow. Let me grow old. Let me grow free. Even if I have to repeat myself to do it.