Well, it’s happening. I’m gettin old. Maybe I shouldn’t say old; I’m getting older. As I write this article, I’m 63. And according to some commercials I’ve heard on the radio, 65 is something like the new 40; but I neither look nor feel 40. I remember 40 and this (excuse the grammar) ain’t it. If you’re reading this and you happen to be 75, according to my reckoning, 75 should be the new 50. Good luck with that, I hope it works for you.
OK, you might be wondering, what’s this guy talking about and why? I’ll tell you. I come from a somewhat large family by most standards. Eleven children were born into the Jesse and Gladys Brown clan in Wichita, Kansas. I was fourth in the birth order and to date I’ve lost a younger sister and two older brothers. And when I was a younger man I hardly gave death a passing thought. Like most, I just assumed I’d live forever. Now I see my mortality in the rear view mirror and it’s gaining on me – fast!
So, I think it’s time for me to begin re-thinking this whole thing about getting older and about death and dying. I don’t intend to be morbid about it. I’m not trying to scare anyone and I’m certainly not trying to elicit some silly, sympathetic, emotional reaction that’s here today and gone tomorrow. As I usually do, I just want to educate. On the one hand, I see some positives (I’ll get to those a little later); yet, on the other, I see some negatives. I’ll talk about those first. There are some aspects of aging that are difficult at best. I’m reminded of a sign an aging friend had on the door of her apartment at the senior complex. It read, “Old age is not for sissies”.
But, this is my reality. I’m not as strong as I used to be. I don’t have the energy I used to have. I can’t do some of the things I used to do. I don’t even want to do some things I used to do. Yet, I wish I could do some other things I used to do. And, there are even other things I can still do, but it takes longer to do them and it’s not nearly as easy as it used to be. I’m not going to go into detail here, but you get the idea. If you don’t understand now, you will later, your time will come. The point is, I’m getting older and there are things that happen (or don’t happen) almost every day to remind me of that fact. And when I’m reminded of it, my thoughts sometimes go to a place in time yet future, when I leave this world and meet my Maker. So, the Father lets us experience old age because it eventually serves as a somewhat constant reminder that we’re going to “pass on”. And, it is at that juncture it is hoped some wisdom has been gained and applied, some preparation has been made.
There are several things that come to mind as I start this. First, I’d like to say that youth is mostly wasted on the young. They don’t usually appreciate it, and they hardly ever use it to its full potential. And second, I can say from personal experience that I’m convinced God in His mercy has a specific purpose in old age. You may take this for granted or just accept it, because you assume it’s the natural order of things; but it was a brilliant move on His part to make us young and impetuous in the beginning of our lives and then slow us down to give us the opportunity to maybe think about what’s really important at the end. This may sound ridiculous, but if at age 63 I was getting younger and stronger, more and more bullet proof, even more distracted with life and living, I’m afraid I just wouldn’t have time to think about my relationship with God.
Another is that we can always check our spiritual condition by honestly examining our attitude towards death. Fear of death causes instability, insecurity and the inability to maintain a healthy relationship with God. This fear is something the god of this world has always used to cripple people mentally, emotionally and spiritually to effectively keep them from being what the God of the universe intended. “Since the children are flesh and blood, He too shared in this same physical nature so that by His death He could destroy the one who holds the power of death – that is, the devil. And, so He could completely set free those who had been enslaved all their lives by the debilitating fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)
Now, I hope I can communicate this principle clearly for you. I’ve kind of touched on the negatives of getting older, so what are the positives I mentioned above that I would talk about? Well, the positives are all of the negatives. You might want to give your eyeballs a good, hard knuckle rub, then read that last sentence again. That’s right. I said the positives are all the negatives. Let me explain.
I’ve talked about this before in several articles, how suffering is a part of the deal. The Scriptures tell us Jesus was perfected (completed) by the things He suffered. We must share in His sufferings, if we expect to share in His glory. The Father has determined that difficulties are a necessary part of our pursuit of Him and of His plan for us. That He uses unpleasant events and circumstances to mold us into the image of His Son. The narrow road that leads to life is actually a path that takes us to difficult obstacles and stressful dilemmas, hopefully forcing us to learn how to trust God and rely on Him.
Do you get it? The aging process is nothing more than an accelerated series of opportunities to gain the spiritual maturity the Father desires for each of us. And let’s be clear; when I say spiritual maturity, what I really mean is an intimate relationship with the Father that’s real (for an explanation of intimacy, read “Intimacy with God and Eternal Life”). The older we get, the narrower the path. The great thing about getting older is that the difficulties can be more numerous, the negatives more constant.
The reality is that life can become more of a struggle as we see our strength, our health, and our ability to provide for ourselves and take care of ourselves get less and less. We won’t fully realize our dependence on God as long as we’re independent. We don’t tend to ask Him for help until we’re helpless. We don’t usually learn to rely on God the way we should until our own resources are exhausted and our options have run out. That, unfortunately is our nature. But the Father knows that. So, in His great love for us, He lets us get old.