You think you know, but you don’t. You’ve seen them all your life, but you’ve never understood until now. You’ve heard the complaints, but now you know how it feels. It’s a new place for you, one you never imagined you’d be in. You don’t like it.
It’s old age. And no one teaches you how to be old.
When you’re little, you’re taught how to do things that you need to do at each age. You’re taught to feed yourself, to use the bathroom, to walk. You go to school to learn the things you’ll need to know to someday be a functioning, independent adult. You graduate from school, take a job and learn how to work in your whatever field. It’s all prescribed. You might get married, have children, which you then spend the next eighteen years or more raising and training, but then they’re gone.
You continue working and doing all the things you have always done. The kids find spouses and come back with little ones who, by the way, are the best little people in the whole world, and you pour yourself into them. You spend as much time as possible with them. You give them whatever you can possibly afford to give. You love them.
But some point along the way, you start noticing things are changing. You get tired more easily. There are aches and pains for no reason at all. The invitations stop coming. Cashiers call you “Honey” and your kids say you are “cute” You have been put in a category that is unfamiliar. You use moisturizer on everything all the time! Epsom salt is now your best friend.
Nothing prepares you for it. You’re old.
Now, I don’t think of myself as old. I think of myself the same way I thought when I was a child. That’s the eternal spirit that’s inside each of us that never ages. In our inner-being, we’re always the same person. I know I’m not as old as others who are still ahead of me. I say “still” because they won’t always be there as has been borne out by the past year of losing so many longtime members in our church, as well as my own mother last March. I think losing your last parent causes a lot of introspection.
From the time I was a child until we moved to Augusta in 1992, I moved around a lot. I went to nine different schools, and for a child, if you switch school districts, you might as well move to another country. Each move meant new schools, new churches, new friends, new neighbors—lots of adjusting. Everywhere we went there were people of all ages. Young people were young; old people were old. My grandparents, aunts, and uncles were the only constant people in my life that I saw getting older. My parents always looked at least 10 years younger than they actually were and I, thankfully, have inherited those genes. But they are deceptive genes. They make you think you are younger than you actually are.
So here I am acknowledging that I’m no longer that young person that I’ve always been up until now, wondering what comes next. What do I do now?
There is a book that has some answers in it. It doesn’t take away the lines and the fading hair or the misshapen midriff, but it tells us how to be. It’s the book I’ve always looked to for guidance and it’s still the place where I find truth and wisdom.
It’s a book that doesn’t apply truths by age. They are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. And we are to continue in them.
“Be strong and courageous, do not fear… Be still and know that I am God… Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him…Commit your way to the Lord…do not steal…do not kill…do not covet…do not envy… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength…You shall love your neighbor as yourself…do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…Philippians 2… and so many more, you know them.
And then there are the ones that point directly to us, encouraging us in this season of life.
Proverbs 16:31 says, “A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness.”
My hair hasn’t turned gray yet, but this passage tells me that to get old is for the righteous, it is a crown of glory. I should be thankful to get old. It means I’ve lived in a way that’s pleasing to the Lord.
Psalm 92:12-14 says, “The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree…They will still yield fruit in old age…”
This tells me that there is work for me to do and that I still have a purpose.
In 2 Timothy 1:5 we learn that Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, was involved in Timothy’s coming to faith in Christ. We are to teach our grandchildren. In Titus 2, we read about the proper behavior of older women to not gossip, to not be enslaved to wine, to teach what is good, to encourage younger women.
The Psalms are full of admonitions about leading those who come after us. Can you see our calling?
Psalm 145:4: One generation shall praise Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts.
Psalm 89:1: …To all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.
Psalm 79:13: …To all generations we will tell of Your praise.
Psalm 78:4: But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.
There I was sitting in our worship venue a while back and I noticed a lot of empty seats. As I thought about it, I remembered that certain people used to sit in those spots. But they are no longer with us.
It made me sad to think about the losses of these faithful ones, but slowly over time, I have begun to notice that those spaces are no longer vacant. There are new faces, younger faces standing where they once stood and worshipping where they once worshipped.
I can’t help but think those seats would still be empty if it weren’t for the faithfulness of those who went before us. They declared the Lord’s faithfulness to the next generation. They made it possible for these younger people to have a place to worship even after they were gone.
We must carry on.
It is our duty to declare to the next generation the glory of the Lord. I wonder who will be sitting in my seat when I’m no longer here.
It’s up to me and you, as we commit our ways to the Lord and let Him direct us, to be faithful. We are to set the example and to make Him known, not only to our own generation but to the generations to follow.
No one showed me how to be old, but my Lord has told me it is a crown of glory and my purpose is clear. Carry on and speak of His glory to those who come behind me.