In the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes we learn, "To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven." (Eccles 3:1 NKJV) This sacred Bible passage reminds us that no matter how much we enjoy doing something, at some point the something we enjoy comes to a close and we move on to our next life challenge. Quite often the real test comes in discovering when it's time to move on.
I enjoy roller skating. When I was a young boy growing up in New York I enjoyed ice skating and playing hockey on the local ponds and rivers during the winter months. Since river and pond ice was free, and you had to pay to enter a roller rink, I never started roller skating until I was about 20-years-old. However, once I started roller skating I knew that my cold weather ice skating days were over forever. My new-found style of skating was something I would be able to do throughout the year, not just during the winter months.
As my years of roller skating began to accumulate, I discovered that quite often I would be the oldest skater on the roller rink. That never bothered me because I figured that somebody had to be the youngest and somebody had to be the oldest. I just happened to be the oldest.
Whenever our Church Youth Group went roller skating I was out there with the kids having as much fun as they were having. Many times I would ask the parents watching their children skate why they weren't skating. Mom and Dad would tell me they skated when they were younger, but were too old to be doing it now. Too old!?! If I was on the rink, it just proves that you're never to old to enjoy roller skating.
Through my 40s and 50s I continued to love skating with the kids and they seems to like having "Old Pastor Ray" out there with them. I believe they thought I was more of a novelty than anything else.
About a year ago I was skating with a group of middle school students and once again put my skates on for another day of roller skating joy. However, this time it was different. For the first time in decades I was having trouble keeping my balance and almost fell several times. Obviously, it had to be my skates. After skating with in-line roller blades for a number of years, perhaps I needed to return to the traditional roller skates with the toe-stop.
Sadly, even with the change of skates, the result was the same. Fun on the roller rink was being replaced with apprehension. Having reached the magic age of 60, I had arrived at the realization that my years of skating were finally over. As I unlaced my skates for the last time I understood what if must feel like for a professional ball player to play in his last game. I felt as if I had just lost an old friend.
As a minister I know that everything happens for a purpose. "Lord, what are you trying to teach me and what good can come from this disappointing day in my life?"
That is when I realized that there is more to roller skating than just the skating. My new task was to help children to enjoy skating as much as I have enjoyed it over the years. I would become their cheerleader off the rink.
On the next group trip to the roller rink, I volunteered to hand out skates to the students. It's amazing how many kids didn't know their shoe size... or how to lace skates. With a smile and words of encouragement I helped the students with their roller skates.
It was incredible how much I enjoyed just watching children skate. The younger ones would smile with approval as I applauded their new-found skating talents. On the other hand, if they were having a tough time trying to skate, I would tell them, "Before you can do something well, you must first do it poorly. Congratulations, you have accomplished the poorly part of skating." With that they would laugh because they knew I wasn't making fun of them. Then I would support them by saying, "However, the next time we come skating I guarantee that you will do much better because you have already put the poorly part behind you."
Do I miss roller skating? Surprisingly, I don't miss it. I wouldn't have trading those many years on the roller rink for anything, but it's time to move on to another phase of skating... the watching phase. In this watching phase I'm finding that I'm smiling and laughing a lot more now. The joy that I once had for roller skating I now get to see on the faces of others.
Copyright © 2010 Rev. Ray C. Nolan
Rev. Raymond C. Nolan has served as a minister for over 30 years and is presently the Assistant Pastor at Daybreak United Methodist Church in Miflin, Alabama. His positive outlook on life serves as an inspiration to all who know him.
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Read some of Ray's other writings too:
Missing The Obvious
We're Never Too Old To Teach
Out Of The Mouths Of Babes
Becoming Too Available
Bernie and Me
The Birthday Cake Rematch
Rank Does Have Its Privileges
Blessings In Disguise
Does God Have A Sense Of Humor?