Well-Aged With Season

As with last week’s post, I’m going back through a handful of pieces I’ve written in recent years, but never published. I’m amazed sometimes at the things God once taught me but slipped to faint and distant memory. I hope this touches you today. 

“Be careful, parents! One day the little ones whose diapers you’re changing will be changing yours!”

I heard that humorous warning about aging in a sermon once. I don’t recall the rest of the lesson at all. That line was so catchy, I kind of got stuck there. But recently, the gravity and art of aging has intrigued me.

Maybe it’s because my refrigerator is camouflaged in pictures of my nieces and nephews. Kylie, the oldest, isn’t quite three; baby Acelynn hasn’t even had her first birthday. Right alongside images of first steps, yogurt-smeared chins and sparkly, wide eyes, is a photo of my grandmother. She turned 91 this year.

Granddad died a few years ago. Since then, almost spry as ever, she has lived alone a few hours from my parents’ house. The only signs of her age are fading hearing, a tremor when she tries to hold her head perfectly still and she walks a bit slower than she used to.

Or maybe, I’m contemplating these seasons of life because I volunteer doing pet therapy with hospice patients. I heard of a man who recently decided he’d like a visit. It took them months to convince him he would benefit from a few hours with a dog. Stubborn, he kept telling his son and nurses that he wants his own dog, not simply a visitor. He knows what they say is true, that it wouldn’t be fair to the dog. He’s too old and ill to care for it properly. He may not live much longer and then who would take care of his furry best friend? Brave and I will meet Mr. Thurston next week for the first time.

Or maybe it’s because a few weeks ago Brave and I attended a grief camp for children who have lost a loved one in the last two years. However unfair, they were thrust into an unexpected season, one with a stark awareness of death. For many of them, the loss will mean a drastic change in their lifestyle. Who will tuck me in at night?

I might be thinking about birth, aging and dying, youth and the elderly, old and new because a friend just told me that he and his wife are finishing their basement so that his father can move in with them. It’s only been a few short years since they tenderly cared for his mother in her final days.

Whatever the reason, the seasons of life are turning in my head. But it’s much more than a solemn observation of finite lives. It’s more of an interest in how these season change us, not just our appearances and abilities, but change the way we live our lives. Passing years change our lifestyles, our priorities, our waking thoughts and unremembered dreams.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11, Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”

It’s not surprising that Paul includes that sentence in, “The Love Chapter”. The most important way that time changes us, that age matures us, that the end sobers us, is that we fall more in love with the timeless. Time as we know it nears its finale, and our attention is swept up by the eternal. Our love shifts to things of an infinite nature—the promises of our Creator, the surety of seeing His face, the eternal spirits of our loved ones. Our lives necessarily change to accommodate these newly found truths.

Our bodies slow down as God allows age to limit our lifestyle, to force us to take closer, longer looks at what really matters. It is in the slowness, even the stillness, that we know He is God. And in that knowing, we are so much closer to all we’ve ever hoped for–to be fully real, fully known and fully loved.

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

Wisdom Borrowed From John Piper

This (lengthy) nugget by John Piper seems to address the tremor of our hearts here on Predatory Lies. The culture’s prevalent lies about our physical beauty and maturity have led many to seek cosmetic surgery. The study that Piper sites is rattling.

No matter your age, what do you feel about your body?

What have you done–if anything–to alter it?

Do you regret your decision?

 

Boomer’s Bodies — And Yours

All of the 10,000 people in America who turn 65 each day have wrinkles. Our skin is more flaccid. Our complexion is more mottled. Our equilibrium is more tenuous. And our hair is more scarce. The effect of aging on our appearance and our bearing is universal. No one escapes. Except by death.
The reason for this is that God has subjected the creation to futility (Romans 8:20). It is in bondage to corruption (Romans 8:21). Even new creatures in Christ groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23).
In other words, when sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, God established a connection between moral depravity and physical deterioration. He intended to make clear that, even if we ignore the dreadfulness of a sinful heart, we will not be able to ignore its witness in the debility of the body.
This is a hard pill for beautiful and robust Boomers to swallow. We have been strong. We have been pretty. Even sexy. And now we realize: We will never have it back. It is over. For good. Until death stops the process we will only get weaker, more wrinkled, more mottled.
Some of us cannot let it go. We resort to plastic surgery in the hopeless attempt to make the looks of youth last a little longer. An article in Psychology Today observes,
Cosmetic surgery is still on the increase throughout developed countries. . . The “looks industry” is alive and well.
But the fix might be more in the head than on the face. Joshua Zimm, from the University of Toronto and his colleagues published a study in 2013 showing that facial cosmetic surgery does not significantly enhance attractiveness and only reduces perceived age by 3.1 years.
The growth of cosmetic surgery is not a reflection of the increasing ugliness of people but a reflection of our increasing negative self-perception. The fact that cosmetic surgery is still increasing in popularity despite showing little positive outcome — objective measure of attractiveness or youth — points again to our desire to become perfect.
Adolescent in Our Thinking
In other words, Boomers don’t look older than previous generations. But we are less content with looking older. We crave the power and the beauty our bodies once had. We are, to a large extent, still adolescent in our thinking about our looks.
Let the Christian Boomers turn this around.
We have found the fountain of youth. His name is Jesus Christ. “He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:21). Our dying body is like a seed planted in the ground. “It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power” (1 Corinthians 15:43).
Aging in Holiness and Grace
Aging Christians don’t stay beautiful and strong in this life. But they do become beautiful and strong in the resurrection. The implication is: Don’t pour your time and energy and resources into artificial aging inhibitors. Pour them into aging with holiness and grace.
“Older men, be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2).
“Older women, be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. Teach what is good, and train the young women” (Titus 2:3–4).
Don’t be part of the tragic millions who desperately try to look and act younger than they are. It is usually pathetic to watch. A deep Arizona leathery tan does not make wrinkled skin look young.
Because of God’s grace, aging is not only a witness to the fall. It is also now a witness to the power of God’s grace. For those who trust him, God has turned deterioration into dignity.
Let these markers of aging be your goal.
1. Realism
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). The real beauty — the real praiseworthiness in life — is not our outward appearance. It is our reverence for God. This is the real beauty of life.
2. Humility
“Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:17). Physical beauty is not a bad thing. But it is a dangerous thing — like wealth (Matthew 19:24). Let the loss of it make us humble. For humility is a beautiful thing.
3. Legacy
“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life” (Proverbs 16:31). “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (Proverbs 20:29). The point is not that only righteous people get old. The point is that when a righteous life is crowned with age, it is a beautiful thing. A thing of honor, not shame.
4. Honorable weakness
“You have been borne by me [the Lord] from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (Isaiah 46:3–4). God has carried us from the womb. We have never been self-sufficient. Now in old age we have the honor of making that crystal clear. The glory of a human is to be carried by God.
Consumed with Ministry, Not Mirrors
Evelyn Harris Brand grew up in a well-to-do English family. She had studied at the London Conservatory of Art and dressed in the finest silks. But she went with her husband to minister as missionaries in the Kolli Malai mountain range of India.
After about ten years her husband died at age 44. After a year’s recuperation in England, she returned and poured her life into the hill people until she was 95. She lived in a portable hut, eight feet square, that could be taken down and moved.
Her son, Paul, commented that “with wrinkles as deep and extensive as any I have ever seen on a human face . . . she was a beautiful woman.” But it was not the beauty of the silk and heirlooms of London high society. For the last twenty years of her life she refused to have a mirror in her house! She was consumed with ministry, not mirrors (see Future Grace, 288-289).
This is what God, by grace, does with our aging. He takes the deep creases of our bondage to corruption and turns them into the dignity of spiritual beauty.
May millions of Christian baby Boomers show the world how the gift of aging is received.