Yesterday I got to my car and realized I forgot my keys. So I went back inside to my bedroom, but when I got there I forgot why I was in the bedroom, so I went back out to the car and realized I forgot my keys. The good news is I only went through that process twice. Short of death or rapture, there is no escape—I am aging.
When I was a young whippersnapper, perhaps 20 years old, I took notice of the many older persons—traveling pairs with baggy clothes and bending posture—that walked along the sidewalks near my home. They’re exercising at a futile pace, I thought. Why don’t they jog, get some real exercise? Youthful judgmentalism is a revealing naiveté.
That was then. This is now. I’m not elderly yet—just old enough to find jogging more painful than worthwhile—but I do finally feel qualified to respond to the query of my younger self: They were busy living life, raising kids, paying bills, weathering heartaches and breathing hopes–the vicissitudes of life—when one day, they woke up and had good reason to run, perhaps after a dog, or a young grandchild spoiling to play, maybe to get out of a summer thunderstorm with the groceries intact, and they realized they couldn’t run, that they had become mere hobblers in the gymnasium of life. Before long they also found they couldn’t jump or comfortably kneel down in the garden either. It all hurt too much. That, plus the muscles no longer cooperated; and so they said, “Uh oh, I better get walking, gotta keep this old warhorse in motion.” That’s why the creaky pace. It’s as simple as that. And it’s all so admirable to me now.
We spend much of our early years taking for granted these mortal vessels, entwining our identities with our physical forms. But growing older has a way of retooling perspective. The soul, we learn, is much more important than the body will ever be. Be it the sculpted body of an athlete or the average-person kind, the soul lives on—the body dwindles. And so it is most natural that over time the appreciation of life shifts to more soul-centric matters. Relationships intensify, and we realize—if we were paying attention at all—that they were always the best part of life anyway (as they will be throughout eternity). Everything else—money, tea, soccer practice—is but the backdrop to why we are here: relationship with God and others.
The elderly have lived long enough to learn all of this, to see their bodies fail. Not so the youth, so I get why they might not understand just yet. What perplexes me, however, is when older Christians are commiserating together over their aches and pains and one of them offers, “Well, it sure beats the alternative.” I assume they mean death. Come now, my fellow sojourners! The wrinkled of face need not be the wrinkled of heart! I know it’s meant as a witticism, a throw-away line, but surely this is not what we believe. Our Bible beckons us to a much more desirable fate: to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord (2 Cor. 5:8b). Thus armed with this verse, as one who is nearer to being old than young, I’m pleased to have come to a rather satisfying conclusion: no matter how slowly they move, the wrinkled among us have every reason to be the most blithe.
I hope this encourages you to embrace getting older today.
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