When I was a boy, I would lay my head on my father's belly. It was a rather distinctive belly -- a sort of round thing, more comfortable for a boy's head than any pillow.
My father has been gone for close to three years, and now I have his belly. I also have his receding hairline, his full cheeks and his high instep. In these and in other ways, to some extent, I have become my father. And this is how life goes.
One of the privileges of being a minister is to witness life in all its stages. We celebrate births. We commiserate over illnesses. We stand with families who suffer the loss of people they love.
Those who serve God in ministry for many years get to watch babies grow up and become teenagers. They cheer as teens become vigorous, engaged adults with busy lives. And they serve as helpful, encouraging shepherds as elders suffer the inevitable effects of aging, wrestling with health problems and the loss of control over their own affairs.
The gift of life is a joy. It is also a challenge, especially as one becomes older. When you face that challenge, I invite you to find strength in a relationship with the living God.
And look to the prophet Isaiah for words of comfort: "(The Lord) gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weary. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint" (Isaiah 40:29-31).
So, let the children rest their heads on their fathers' bellies. And may all fathers find the time to allow that to happen, for life and its joys are fleeting gifts of God that are to be enjoyed while one may.
And when you are weary, hope in the Lord. Tap into the strength that stems from knowing God. Do this, and cherish the life that God has granted you.
The Rev. Charles Cochran is pastor of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Augusta.