I have been thinking a lot about old age recently. Part of my joy at being back in the UK is that I get to see my parents regularly. My Mum is pretty much housebound and my Dad takes care of her. It is wonderful to have the chance to talk to them every day and to see them once a week – a privilege I didn’t know I would have as they saunter through the twilight years. Last week we celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary – 60 years of being faithful to each other; they have seen each other through the good times and the bad, and now they help each other through the difficult days of old age.
For as another elderly gentleman said to me recently, ‘There is nothing glamorous about old age’. He is 88 and his wife is 90 and they are remarkable – sure, they have aches and pains, they suffer from the frustration of limitations in their bodies which they didn’t know a few years ago – but in their minds they are as bright as buttons, alert, interested in others and in current events, and walking with the Lord in daily dependence on Him.
I attended the funeral of my uncle last week – he died at the ripe old age of 98! Now when you get to that age, there aren’t many people at your funeral:-) But those who were, celebrated a life lived and thanked God for the hope of the resurrection.
For that is the thing which gives us hope in old age – our bodies are wasting away but our spirits are being renewed and will one day go to be with the Lord. As someone has said, we are not in the land of the living and going to the land of the dying – we are in the land of the dying and are going to the land of the living.
But the gospel gives us hope in the present too – whatever our age. Today I read an article by Jill Briscoe who had been speaking at a retreat for ‘seniors’. She spoke from Prov.31:1-9 – where a son shares the advice his mother gave him. Jill points out that the seniors among us have a lot to say and we would do well to listen to their advice, based on years of experience. She says, ‘Those of you whose parents are still living, make sure they are in a church that appreciates their age, wisdom, and giftedness, and is putting it to use. Those of you who are ‘them’, be encouraged.’ (JBU Fall 2007).
Last week Alan and I had the privilege of attending a session of the seniors at our church (they call themselves ‘Keenagers’ – for they are as keen as teenagers!). One lady shared with us that she had just joined the ministry that day, in response to a challenge Alan had given during a Sunday sermon when he was talking about Nehemiah and the building of the wall of Jerusalem – we were all encouraged to take a stone home with us and ask God what we should write on it. This lady had decided God wanted her to help with the Keenagers. One of the Keenagers – a lady of 80 – took her stone out of her pocket and showed it to us – she had written ‘PRAY’ on it.
What an example of old age lived out to the glory of God!