Sunday, August 2, 2015

Aging with Grace and Vigor

Birthdays seem to be a central theme in my life right now.  Birthdays that celebrate long lives…many years.  This weekend we attended a surprise birthday party for a lovely lady who turned one of those pivotal markers, 70.  Diana’s birthday was a joy to celebrate; she is a woman with godly character, is physically active and has a face that radiates the joy of knowing Jesus.

My husband also hit a significant marker in April and it was a few of his recent remarks and observations that inspired my thoughts today.  He just returned from a 10 day canoe trip in Canada, a journey he shared with 3 other men who have seen “many days”.  (We are heading to Canada for a few days in September to help one of them celebrate his 70th birthday.) These very active, but astute men, concluded this could be their last trip, at least one that demands they carry their canoes over rocks and camp in rough, wild places.  There are legitimate concerns about falls and accidents.

I have a “significant” birthday quickly approaching.  Since Charlie and I graduated in 1963 it would seem you could do the math! Obviously we have many friends moving into the “sunset” years, as people like to call them.

There are some phrases that people use that kind of roll off the tongue without much thought:

1.      When approached by someone they haven’t seen in some time and asked how they are doing, often we hear: “Yep, I’m still upright and breathing.”  (As though that were a glorious goal!)

2.     There is always the classic: “Yep, have my aches and pains but what can you expect at my age?”

3.     Another one is: “When you have your health, you have everything.”  I really don’t like that one; it infers that if you are unhealthy you are left with nothing, no life purpose, no value. 

4.     But my all-time favorite is:  “Well, it’s better than the alternative.  I could be 6 feet under.” (Really?  “Six feet under” means having the most important part of me in the company of Jesus!)

So what about this aging process?  Really, now that I am there, it is important to me to approach this season of life in a way that pleases God.  I am extremely thankful that, as I write this post, I am healthy. I enjoy much more energy than many my age.  I know how quickly that can change and I entertain an attitude of gratitude every day.  But even when the time comes that my health fails, I pray I can continue to see new ways I can serve God and love others, even within imposed limits.

The Bible gives us some clues about aging:  Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born and Sarah was 90.  (Must admit, I am really hoping God does not have anything like that in mind for us!!!)  Moses was 80 and his brother, Aaron was 83 when they took up leadership and went to speak to Pharaoh.  Get the picture?!  Those are only 2 of many examples of age being insignificant to God’s call on the lives of His servants.

Psalm 92: 12 says: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”  Verse 14 says: “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, etc.”  I find it interesting that God attaches the idea of righteousness with flourishing and bearing fruit in old age.

One of my favorite sermons of all time was called “The Gap”.  Our pastor acknowledged that this side of heaven there will always be a gap between what we say we believe and how we behave. But the real question is:  is that gap growing wider or is it getting narrower?

I want to take whatever days I have left to serve God…. whenever…. wherever… in every situation… no matter what.  I am no longer looking at life stretching far out ahead of me.  But I also know God has great plans for me (Jeremiah 29:11), right up to the time I am freed from the bonds of this earth.

I have told my family to never let me get away with saying, “I am too old to change.  I am too old to learn ____.”  As Psalm 100 declares: “Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into his presence with singing!”  That’s what I intend to do as I wing my way into the next decade.

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