MY THOUGHTS ABOUT GETTING OLDER
Henri Frederic Amiel wrote, “To learn how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” I think learning how to grow older is a tremendous part of “the great art of living,” and that those who do it best put the right perspective the years they’ve already lived.
I’ve just celebrated my birthday, and I’m grateful to relatives, friends and acquaintances that have, in different ways, acknowledged this milestone in my life. This has meant more to me, I’m sure any of my well-wishers can begin to realize.
This past Sunday a dear friend and brother in Christ, greeted me with a “Happy Birthday” at church. Then he said that he hoped I didn’t mind being reminded of my birthday because he knew some people who didn’t like such reminders. I assured him that this definitely isn’t my position. It never has been.
I’ve had quite a few birthdays at this point in my life. Within the context of this one, for some reason or other, I’ve been provoked to reflect somewhat on the fact of my growing older. Because my reflections along these lines have been predominantly positive and pleasurable, I thought I’d share some of them.
As I reflect on it, I think growing older, has illustrated for me, the truth that “all things,” – especially the passing years of ones life – work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). I am more convinced of the goodness of God today than I have ever been as think about what the passing of the years have meant to the whole of my life.
The years that have passed in my life are years that had to be spent in order for me to become a man. I’m talking about more here than something defined merely in terms of biology and chronology. I talking about the need to become, over time, the kind of man I needed to be and that others would need me to be.
It takes an investment of years out of ones life to develop a sense of how to live life well and wisely, to accept and follow through on responsibilities, to attain respectability and to grow spiritually – to think and act like a man. Manly maturity depends on learning to value and be a good steward of time. This is what Rudyard Kipling is referring to in the following lines of his poem, “IF.”
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run.
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—what is more—you’ll be a man, my son!”
I know that the things that are most precious in my life now would never have been possible without the passage of the years that were needed for them to materialize. Therefore, I don’t begrudge these years that have passed.
I don’t regret the passing of fifty years of my life during which I found my wife and have learned, however slowly and imperfectly it’s been, to express the love and admiration for her that she has always deserved. These bygone years made it possible for me to have children, all of whom I can love and respect. These years provided the time for me to have grandchildren and great grandchildren to pray prayers for and dream dreams for; children to watch, play with, pray for and love.
It's taken the years, leading up to my recent birthday for me to accumulate the friends of all ages and from different walk of life that I have. And these years have given me time to identify and enjoy from among these, some especially true and close friendships – the diamonds, here and there, among the gold. I don’t regret the years that have had to pass over the counter for me to acquire my friends.
I’ve needed the years now gone by to grow in grace. I’ve needed them to learn how to study, personally apply, and minister God’s Word to others. I’ve needed them to learn how to pastor and to pastor churches, and how to be a blessing to others in ministry.
It’s taken all the years I’ve lived to stockpile the precious memories that I’ve stockpiled and continue to stockpile. These memories are a delight now, and they’ll be profoundly comforting to me a little farther down the road. My years have been well invested in terms of memories.
Am I satisfied with everything I’ve experienced and done during the years I’ve lived so far? Of course not. In the words of an old song, Things haven’t been all that I’d planned.” But I’ve learned through the years not to dwell on past failures and disappointments. I’ve learned the importance of daily heeding, as best as I can, what God has commanded in Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are
lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there
be any praise, think on these things.”
I have several old Bibles carefully put away in my study. I call them my old “preaching Bibles.” I have at least five of these now; one for each of my children to have one day. They’re all worn and stained by age; some of the covers and pages are a little loose, and my underlining, highlighting and notations can be found throughout all of them.
One of these old Bibles has been on my desk since I bought it when in my early twenties. I call it my “study Bible.” It’s really “marked up.” Among the numerous things I’ve written on its fly pages through the years is a quotation attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes. In faded ink are these lines:
“Tis yet high day. Thy staff resume,
And fight fresh battle for the truth.
For what is age, but youth full bloom,
A riper, more transcendent youth.”
I can’t remember when or why I copied the above quotation onto a flyleaf of my Bible. But I noticed this early this morning, and it it prompted me to share these thoughts of mine – about growing older.