Aging with Grace
By Deacon Mary Delancey
In the First Letter of John, we read “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” But what does it mean to be a child of God when you are 60, 70 or 80? How are we meant to live?
Our culture allows us two common responses to aging. The first is to immerse ourselves in the pursuit of leisure when and how we choose. The busier we are, the more validated we feel. The second is the role of the patient, always trying to ward off the effects of aging. When we no longer can, we may feel like we are on a downhill slide, just waiting out our days.
As Christians we have a third possible response. We are encouraged to accept aging as a vital and positive step in our spiritual journey. God is at work in all of us, to teach, fill and create. He has not put a time limit on that work. There are lessons that we only get with aging. If we let Him, God will use these experiences to continue His work in us as He fits us for His kingdom and develops Christ’s character in us.
Some of these children of God are “elders.” There are many references to elders in the Bible, more than 170. Elders were cherished members of their communities who were valued, not because of the years they lived, but because of the wisdom they brought to the community.
One of the advantages of a long life is the opportunity to develop wisdom. Wisdom has been described as a capacity of the mind that allows us to understand life from God’s perspective. It does not just come with the years; it takes work to develop and it takes work to maintain.
Developing wisdom takes time. It takes openness and times of contemplation to listen to God. We need to ask God what He wants for us in this part of our lives and we need to be obedient to what He shows us. This is not often easy work. If we do this work, we become closer to God and find a peace that may have eluded us until now. It takes studying His Word and being willing to apply it to our lives.
I invite you to join me on a journey to be a wise elder. If we are willing to let God work in us, we can develop the wisdom that is so needed now in our families, in the church and in our communities. Over the next few weeks we will explore what scripture tells us about aging in God’s grace.
As we begin our journey, here is my prayer, using words of Psalm 71: Lord I thank you for the gift of old age. And now that I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, till I make known Your strength to this generation and Your power to all who are to come. Lord, give me I pray this in Jesus’ Name, who is the source of all that I need to develop wisdom for the sake of Your kingdom. Amen.