From time to time I have spoken of William Barclay. He was a Scottish scholar who was exceptionally liberal in many of his theological views; nonetheless, one may profit from some of his writings.
In one of his books, Barclay tells of being in London on a certain occasion. As he prepared to cross a busy street, an elderly woman, quite frail, took hold of his arm and asked: “Will you help me across the street?” After they had made the short trek, she sighed, “Never grow old.”
Could we think about this admonition for a moment?
First, growing old and facing death are the inevitable consequences of human rebellion (Romans 5:12). With good habits, one may delay the step into eternity, but our final day on this earth is on the calendar somewhere. Thus, prepare your life, and your mind, for the rewards of heaven. Try to develop a healthy, sweet disposition about life so that such will carry you into those final years, and you will not be an additional burden to those who love you.
Second, don’t attempt to deny the aging process with exaggerated efforts to cover it up, and thus make yourself look silly. There is nothing more pathetic than someone who obviously is quite elderly, but who desperately attempts to look decades younger. Remember that childhood rhyme about the old lady who generously applied “powder and paint, to make her self look like what she ain’t”?
And it’s not a passion restricted to the fairer sex. I recently read of a prominent, aging actor who has had so many plastic surgeries, that he cannot fully close his eyes at night. I believe it was Phyllis Diller who once quipped that she had undergone so many face-lifts that when she smiled, it pulled up her hose! It is possible to be neat, and fashionable, without looking ridiculous.
Third, learn to appreciate your years and what they can mean to others. Robert Browning’s lyrics, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be,” contain a gold mine of wisdom. By the time we reach the “elderly” state, we should have accumulated a degree of wisdom. We have matriculated through the “University of Hard-Knocks,” and ought to be in a position to pass along wisdom.
There are numerous teens, the young married, etc., who could greatly benefit from what you’ve learned. Make yourself available for counsel to those who are relatively young, and who are struggling with changing and frightful times in their lives.
Fourth, as we grow older we should better be able to discern what is really important in life, versus the trivial. It is a sad commentary on one’s life when, as he grows older, he looks forward to the time when he can retire and just “play.” Such is a tragic commentary on how one has assessed his “purpose” on this planet.
Fifth, as we age we ought to learn how to be more patient with others. When one assesses his years of experiences “in the flesh,” he will cringe at the memories of his blunders, and try to be more patient with the younger who are struggling in their own lives. Sometimes we think, “Why are they acting so stupidly?” Why did we? Don’t “curse the darkness”; “light a candle.” Be compassionate and help others along life’s difficult road.
Sixth, maturing in age ought to magnify our appreciation for the love and favor of God. Paul once agonized over the weaknesses of his own body. He failed to do his best on occasion; he acknowledged that sin sometimes had control over him. In a fitful moment of anguish he exclaimed: “Wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me out of this body of death?” (see: Romans 7:14-24). The only consolation was the grace of Christ.
If we are spiritually sensitive, we will be tormented because of our weaknesses as long as we live. But what a glorious day it will be when we are released from the flesh to sin no more!
Growing old is more a matter of attitude than chronology. I know people of four score or more years who have more life, zest, and happiness than those half their age. There may yet be time for you to groom yourself to be happily aged!