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Andrew Lyke, a.k.a. Papa Drew

“Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.” (Is. 46:4)

I’m in my 71st year of life. I’m old; I like it; and I hope to get older. It’s a new season of life that I’m in now, and it comes with challenges and superpowers I didn’t have before. Among the challenges are the expected issues that come with aging, such as memory loss, physical deterioration (vision, hearing, muscle tone, etc.), perennial aches and pains, living on a fixed income, memory loss (did I say that already?), and the increasing pace of the lapse of time.

Among the superpowers are wisdom from perspectives gained from living through the stages of life and the derived meaning and sense of purpose from better knowing oneself. Through those stages of life, I have been shaped, evolved, and have become. The theory/praxis ratio has shifted to more wisdom from experiences that support or challenge long-held beliefs about good and evil, life, death, sickness, health, who God is, who I am, my purpose, and my vocation.

Having witnessed the cyclical nature of being human for 70 years, I am better able to recognize patterns of life experiences that come, go, and return in new seasons. The adage, “There is nothing new under the sun” comes to mind. So does “Hindsight is 20/20.” And my favorite, “I wish I knew half of what I thought I knew when I was 25.” Aging narrows my path forward with fewer forks in the road. Impending death looms ever closer, while time has seemingly sped up.

This new sense of greater focus and clarity that I’m experiencing, I believe it to be due to a “seller’s market” for the remaining time of my life (diminishing supply and increasing demand), which makes this time more and more precious and sacred. Autopilot and cruise control are turned off. This, for me, is prime time. I intend to live fully until I die. And it keeps me prayerful and trying to be in tune with the Spirit. Perspective offers me a greater understanding of myself, my strengths and gifts, my shortcomings and failures, and the blessings from grace that have shone brightly on my path. It at once humbles me and emboldens my confidence.

Andrew at a 2015 Organizing Catholics for Justice protest

The rearview mirror holds all the data I need to evaluate life and be intentional about how I spend these final decades, years, or days on this side of eternity. As a social activist, I’m used to engaging in causes for the sake of “the common good” or “building the beloved community.” As a young person, the hope that fueled my activism came with expectations, if not demands for good things to come from my efforts, if not soon, in the long run. And when evidence of good realized, there were feelings of justification, vindication even, and more fuel for hope in the work in my plot to toil in the Vineyard.

Looking back on the past 70 years, I rediscover myself in the previous stages through my life. That encounter with myself happens with the benefit of my superpowers, wisdom from a seasoned perspective. I have found circumstances once puzzling to be now understandable. My shortcomings to which I was once blind I can now see with greater clarity.

As a child, I had separation anxiety with my mother. Entering my preteens, I learned to

Andrew Lyke in 1966

conquer my insecurities, though not without some lasting trauma. Growing out of that was how I processed through adolescence. And I didn’t look back. Now, in this primetime season, I have rediscovered that insecure child. I no longer feel the need to distance myself from him but rather embrace him and accept him. Those skills that I have developed in ministry work I now apply to myself with greater ease. Similarly, revisiting issues for which I am ashamed, my superpowers set the stage for me to forgive myself and, when necessary, seek forgiveness from others.

While I pay homage to aging for this new season in the Spirit, I must also note that two bouts with acute myeloid leukemia, first in 2015, and again in 2017, gave great impetus. It was in the summer of 2015. My time with the Archdiocese of Chicago, where I was the Director of the Office for Black Catholics, had just ended. My plan was to take the marriage ministry efforts that my wife, Terri and I had been doing since the early 1980s to a higher level. In just six months, we were to host the first National Black Catholic Marriage Symposium. We were scheduled to be among the few presenters at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in less than two months. And we had a book deal with a publisher. To be stricken with cancer at the precipice of a key moment in our ministry bewildered me. Why me? Why now?

Terri and Andrew Lyke

The most fearful moment was with the diagnosis. “Blood cancer” sounded so ominous. Fear engulfed me so much that it was difficult to pray. I leaned on Terri to lead me there. I called my mother. Then my kids, my siblings, extended family, colleagues, and friends. I asked everyone to pray for me. I also requested prayers on Social Media. The responses were overwhelming. I got great comfort from knowing that so many people were praying for me. Their spiritual support was palpable and summoned courageous hope in me. I felt that I owed my prayer warriors my courage and my reliance on my faith. It was primetime and I wanted to be authentic to who I say I am—a man of faith. I kept a daily journal of my experiences while hospitalized for more than a month. I shared those daily reflections and prayers on Social Media. All the feedback from hundreds of readers was good medicine and got me through.

Andrew and medical staff at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital

The bone marrow transplant in 2017 got rid of the cancer but left me with a severely compromised autoimmune system, chronic fatigue, atrophied muscle tone, and a relatively mild case of vitiligo (loss of blotches of pigmentation in the skin). Though living with limitations at a slower pace, I was happy to be alive and present for my family and friends who rallied for me.

Now forced into retirement, I have had to take stock of my life in professional church ministry. I can recognize how I wasn’t taking my own often-given advice to drop no balls but juggle fewer. I sacrificed my own well-being in this work that I loved. Nonetheless, I am grateful to have thrived while engaging in meaningful work. And I forgive myself for my past unhealthiness.

During my stint with cancer, God’s grace remained at work in my life.

The Lyke Family

Three of my six grandchildren came into the world; we hosted that symposium, and we wrote that book. In my struggle back to good health, I have developed new, healthier habits. I now eat more mindfully and have become an avid cyclist. I’m at peace with life and thankful for a new, healthy season of life. Though it sounds odd to say, it is true that I have been blessed by the path that cancer pushed me on. Not a path I would choose (or recommend) but one that chose me, has blessed me and has made me better than I was.

Looking back on the highs and lows of the past 70 years, retracing my life, I find grace at every turn, high and low. It gives powerful witness to God’s magnanimous love. I see it so clearly with my superpowers gained from suffering and aging. What I find most amazing is that the lows have been as critical to my growth as the highs. This speaks volumes to me about suffering, aging, and approaching death. They make us better when they summon in us courage, when they awaken our attention to the beauty around us, when they rally the love in our lives, and when they prompt us to the urgency of living intentionally in the moment.

The "Grand-Blessings"

This is all so consistent with what married life has taught us about the power of suffering love. You need not seek it out, nor should you run away from it. You face it. And it shapes you into who you need to be for the sake of those promises made at the altar.

Just as Jesus faced suffering and death on the cross, we too must face the crosses of life guided by faith and the hope of rising to a better self, resurrected, untied, and set free. It takes time to grow into our best lives. The Spirit is taking her time with me. And I’m happy to be still growing in wisdom, age, and grace. It’s so good to be old. I hope to get older. It’s a privilege not granted to everyone.

Shirley Lyke (center) and her five living children Marcia, Lila, Kent, Cynthia, and Andrew

Relevant Scripture Verses

· 2 Corinthians 4:16 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

· Ecclesiastes 7:10 says, “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.”

· Isaiah 46:4 says, “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

· Job 5:26 says, “You will come to the grave in full vigor, like sheaves gathered in season.”

· Job 12:12 says, “Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?”

· Job 32:7 says, “I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’”

Andrew Lyke is the retired Director of the Office for Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He served in that role from 2011 to 2015. From 1999 to 2009, he was the Coordinator of Marriage Ministry. He and Terri have led a ministry to marriage national in scope since 1982. That work which focuses on sacramental marriage among African Americans. In that work they have served thousands of couples with retreats, relationship coaching, workshops, and keynote presentations around the United States and the Caribbean. Andrew and Terri are authors of the critically acclaimed book Marriage On A Lampstand: Exploring a New Paradigm for Modern Christian Marriage (Heavenly Light Press).

Andrew is also a Catholic anti-racism activist. As a campus minister at DePaul University in the mid-1990s, he facilitated focus groups with students, faculty, and staff using the “Recovery From Racisms” curriculum. For 14 years, he was a founding member of the “Dwell In My Love” Anti-Racism Taskforce for the Archdiocese of Chicago.

He is also a cancer survivor, diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia in 2015 and again in 2017. Now cancer free in retirement, he continues anti-racism advocacy as a consultant and on various Social Media, as well as the marriage ministry work with Terri. He is an avid cyclist and continues to sustain good health and vigor through cycling. Andrew and Terri have two adult children and six grandchildren.

For more information about the author, visit his personal website:

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1 Comment

Marla Sanders
Marla Sanders
Jun 01, 2023

Love this reflection by Andrew Lyke. So many pearls of wisdom shared. Thank you for your profound faith in God and the reminder that , "through it all, God is with us and sustains us."

This reflection also reminded me that I must do a better job of taking care of my health, mind, body, spirit and soul, so that I can continue doing the work of the Lord.


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