One of the familiar hymns that is usually sung near the end of a year, or at the beginning of a new year, is “O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come…” I assume this is a favorite hymn of many so-called “Senior Citizens,” because we have had so many years already, and we hope we will be around a while longer. We “older adults” (some of us prefer that term) are also at that stage in life when we are giving more serious thought to our mortality, what lies beyond, where we are going, and where we will be when we get there. The 1971 “White House Conference on Aging” concluded that people seem to value spirituality more as they grow older. Of course, spirituality means different things to different people. It is by no means synonymous with religion, for many people who consider themselves to be “spiritual” have little or no interest in what is called “organized religion.” However, many of those who have no religious preference, or simply feel no need for religion, are nevertheless interested in some religious questions, especially “Is there life after death?”
Of course, no one becomes interested in spiritual matters simply because they have reached what is considered “old age.” However, in our retirement years the focus of our lives does change. It is no longer our job that occupies such an important place in our lives, demanding so much of our time and thought. As we grow older there is a shift in our thinking, in our self-identity and self-understanding, from “working” to “being,” being free to devote more time to leisure, being able to spend more time with the most significant people in our lives, being able to pick up those paint brushes once again or to enjoy other hobbies, and finally checking off one by one those items still remaining on our “bucket list.” These are just a few of the advantages and opportunities that come with aging. Suffice it to say, we have more time to “dream,” and to see some of our dreams come true. Some of you may be old enough to remember a song that was popular years ago, “When you grow too old to dream.” Well, if you ever grow too old to dream, you are indeed too old! Yes, you may become too old to travel, health issues may force you to stay closer to home, but you do not have to stop dreaming, to stop living, to stop being able to devote time to those activities and experiences that are enjoyable and bring satisfaction. Furthermore, you do not have to stop growing, maturing, meditating, and “becoming” (i.e becoming the person God created you to be, for that is a life-long process). It is sad that so many people depend upon their “job” for their self-esteem. It is their title, their honors, their position that they depend upon for their sense of worth. That is sad because you can lose your job! Then what? There is something far more important than “making a living,” and that is “making a life.”
Those of us who are enjoying these latter years of life are determined to make the most of the rest of our lives, to make every day count. Time is too precious to be squandered! All of us are growing older, and we should be seeking to grow better as we grow older. Aging gives each of us the opportunity to reflect on the past, to make the most of the present, and to plan for the future. As we grow spiritually, we are also given the opportunity to give more serious thought to how we are using our time, to examine more closely our values and life goals, to give more serious the importance of relationships (especially our relationship with God), and how we can make our influence more meaningful, more helpful, more positive, and more long-lasting. This is perhaps the best time to conduct a “self-inventory,” to change what needs to be changed, to make amends, to resolve conflicts, to heal broken relationships, to make those phone calls that have been postponed for too long, to visit friends in nursing homes, to offer words of affirmation, to be an encourager – and if you are a Christian to “speak a good word for Jesus,” to share your faith with others, and to do it lovingly! And, of course, this is the best time to make those final arrangements that need to be made, preparing for our death, to plan the celebration of our own life (write it out, your favorite hymns, the scriptures you want someone to read, biographical information, who you want to share in the memorial service, etc.). That will be a big help to your family. Also, write a note or letter to loved ones, your spouse, your children, your grandchildren – expressions of your love, your appreciation, your hopes, your dreams for each of them – that will help them to not only “go” through grief, but to “grow” through it!
As older adults we ourselves are already somewhere in the grieving process, thinking about separation and loss, being anxious for those we will leave behind at our death, worrying about those who will be most intimately bereft, financial concerns, our legacy and bequests. All of these concerns can also cause us to refocus and redefine who we are, how we want to be remembered, what we are leaving behind, how we have influenced those who are nearest and dearest to us. If you are a person of faith, then you may want to leave behind a statement of your faith, your most important beliefs, thoughts that can make you a blessing for years to come, perhaps for future generations. Ask yourself: What do I want people to remember about me? My achievements? The positions I have held? Is that really what matters most? What about your role as a husband, or a wife; a father or mother; a grandparent? What abut the most important relationships in your life? If you are a Christian, as I am, then what about your relationship with Jesus Christ? What about your faith journey, your spiritual struggles, your most important values and priorities, those things that have given your life meaning and a purpose that reaches beyond this earthly life, beyond the boundaries of space and time, beyond death?
In a previous post, I called to remembrance the Apostle Paul, who rewrote his resume after he became a Christian. IF YOU WERE REWRITING YOUR OWN RESUME AT THIS TIME IN YOUR LIFE, WHAT CHANGES WOULD YOU MAKE? More importantly, if you were writing your resume for the purpose of presenting it to your Father in Heaven, what would you exclude and include? DO YOU THINK GOD WILL BE PLEASED?
Life on this planet we call Earth does not only consist of the biblical “three score years and ten, or if by reason of strength four score years or more,” for we are called upon in scripture to live in obedience to God, loving Him, trusting Him, serving Him, because He has been made known to us most fully in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. We love Him “because He has first loved us.” We want to walk with God by following Jesus, walking by faith, knowing that He is pleased to reward faith (Hebrews 11:6), believing that this is the most abundant life here-and-now, and also believing there is a larger, richer, fuller life beyond this earthly life in the kingdom of God, which is everlasting!