When I was younger, growing up was a big deal. I couldn’t drive until I reached a minimum age, and then couldn’t rent a car until almost a decade later. Life was about getting to a certain point so that new opportunities would “unlock”.
Now, though, I have gotten to a certain point in my life where I start to look at the number of years that I may have left, rather than the years I have completed. I start to think about what I can get done in my remaining time (which is hopefully still a few decades). I wonder: if I wait to have a mid-life crisis until I’m, say, 60, does that define the midpoint of my life so that I can live to be 120?
Another change happens as people age in some cultures (including my own), though: their contributions aren’t always valued. My wife laughs at announcers who call sports figures old by the time they hit 40 (although given the toll that contact sports take on one’s body, most players are probably ready for a break after a decade or so). Senior citizens with much wisdom to offer may be marginalized on Facebook because they don’t re-post popular memes. I’m painting with broad brushes, here, but I think that aging is often portrayed as something to be avoided, rather than embraced. (Although, as wise people have pointed out, aging is better than the alternative.)
In the Bible (which is known for turning fallible human opinions upside down), it seems that growing older isn’t something to be feared or avoided. God’s plan included work by many people after they were 100 years old (Abraham raising Isaac, Noah building an ark, Moses leading the Hebrew nation to the border of Canaan). “Elders” were leaders of the early church (see Acts 14:23), and in the Jewish religious leadership before then. In addition, elders are present at the throne in Revelation (see Revelation 4:4).
Take a look at this verse:
Wisdom belongs to the aged,
and understanding to the old.
Job 12:12 NLT
While God can provide wisdom to even the young (see Job 32:9, James 1:5), it seems that putting in some time on this earth lends itself to a type of understanding that mere “book learning” cannot deliver, especially if we are walking with God.
What if we looked forward to growing in wisdom (even if that took time) the same way we looked forward (as children) to being old enough to do more things? What if we were excited about getting to understand more – about the world around us, about how people interact with each other, about God’s plan – and eagerly anticipated what we might be able to offer to others in the future?
Just like I got my learner’s permit before I could get my driver’s license, and practiced driving frequently, knowing that we have a goal can also inspire us to prepare for that goal. This doesn’t mean we can’t take the wisdom that God has given us thus far, and lovingly use it to bless others, but imagine what else He may impart to us (through experiences of both joy and sorrow) in the future!
So, may we look forward to the blessings of age, and not fear the future, even if it comes with some aches and pains. And, if our concern about growing older is the inevitable changes that it brings to our appearance, perhaps this verse will offer some encouragement!
Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained by living a godly life.
Proverbs 16:31 NLT
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.