According to Chuck Swindoll, older adults are often characterized by four negative attitudes: (1) fear, (2) guilt, (3) uselessness, and (4) bitterness or self-pity. None of these descriptors fit my former friend and mentor, Annie Cheairs. To inspire you to finish life well, may I tell you about her?
When I was a mere high school freshman, I met Annie at a weekend camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. She and Bob Mitchell led the Young Life Club at Acalanes High School where I attended. Every Monday night about 100 high schoolers would congregate in a student’s home (sometimes mine) to sing worship songs and hear a gospel message from Bob. Throughout my high school years, Annie led us girls in Bible study every Friday. Week by week, Annie taught us biblical truth, encouraged us to memorize scriptures, and prayed for us. There were no overheads, videos, or phone aps. Annie was a plain-spoken woman with a southern accent who loved us teenage girls enough to deliver the basic truth consistently. Annie Cheairs evidenced no fear of life or of us.
More than forty years later, I visited her in Little Rock, Arkansas during the month of August! It was simply too hot and humid to walk outside, so we walked the mall for exercise. Purposeful as always, Annie inquired about my life as we marched by the various stores which held no interest for her! Annie was practical and down to earth. I was allowed to take this Wheaton graduate to dinner in a bare bones’ restaurant there in the mall. In her opinion, anything more was wasteful. She would rather I send money to missionaries. At the time of my visit, one of her neighbors was having financial difficulties. When I had inquired about hotel reservations, Annie said she would handle it . . . just come to her house. I did so only to discover she had booked me a room with her neighbor who had air-conditioning! Frugal Annie did not. In one fell swoop, she took care of me and her neighbor! Bold and courageous Annie Cheairs evidenced no guilt! She had a value system, and she lived by it with grace.
Annie had retired from the staff of Young Life as well as her teaching position in Kenya at the Rift Valley Academy, but she had not ceased serving the Lord. During my visit, numerous folks stopped by her home just to ask what she thought about something. I was delighted to see that Annie, or Miss Anne as they called her in the South, was respected and her opinion was sought out by the younger women. When we went to her church, the pastor requested that she come into his study to pray with him about something. Even church leadership looked up to her. Southern hospitality took a second seat to Annie’s role as intercessor. One of my most vivid memories of Annie was watching her watch the news. To her it was a daily appointment for prayer. Just before 5 PM, she called me into the living room, pulled up a chair for me to join her and got down to business with her prayer cards. She was diligently following several issues with notes and scriptures. When she learned my husband had attended Promise Keepers Gatherings in Portland and Seattle, she wanted a full report. Promise Keepers were on her prayer list. Annie Cheairs was far from useless. Actually, it seemed to me as if she was on the front lines.
At the time of this visit, I was approaching fifty. Annie was in her mid-70’s with white hair. I remember her telling me one’s fifties were the best decade! You were old enough to have figured out which end was up, yet your health was still intact! Attending to others was such a habit for her, it seemed difficult for her to believe that I had not come with a need. My desire was simply to let her know how much I had appreciated her input into my life and her lovely model of servanthood. Annie never married, but there was no bitterness or self-pity. To her death, she remained a forthright servant of God who prayed fervently and often. My last letter to her was answered by a nephew. After informing me that she was with the Lord, he shared his delight in discovering she had had correspondents around the world especially on the mission field. Why was I not surprised? None of the negatives Swindoll ascribes to the aged applied to Annie Cheairs in her fourth quarter. Neither do they need to be characteristic of us! Our Heavenly Father will give us boldness where we know fear, exchange our guilt for grace, give us new purpose if we ask, and enable us to be thankful instead of bitter. We are God’s kids.
- Fear? I prayed to the Lord, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Psalms 34:4
- Guilt? If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
- Uselessness? Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. Matthew 22:37-39
- Bitterness? Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. Philippians 4:11