Sunday, November 20, 2011

on aging with grace

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Christina Olson, by Andrew Wyeth

Yesterday was "Seniors Sunday" at church (our church has a vibrant ministry for seniors -- or anyone above 55 -- which has even attracted a large following from other churches and denominations; the members get together frequently to worship and fellowship through prayer, music, dance and scrumptious teatimes. Email me if you'd like more details).

Well naturally, yesterday's sermon was related to the day's theme; it was entitled Aging with Grace. I think it wasn't only relevant to older people, though, but those who are younger as well. After all, aren't we all aging from the time we're born? And shouldn't we all try to do it gracefully?

There were some points our pastor made which especially struck me. "Life does not go downhill after we hit middle age," he said, "unless we choose this self-fulfilling prophecy of declining doom".

He highlighted two ways through which we can grow old gracefully; one, live in prayerfulness, and two, live in gratefulness.

If you've read my blog much, you'll know that these are two areas I've been working on in my own life. I know, through conviction and experience, that a habitual prayer life really, really does help one through each day -- empowering, lifting and guiding, or getting one back on track with God (you can read some of my thoughts on this here, here and here).

Living in prayerfulness has to be intentional our pastor said; if we don't cultivate the habit of regularly praying and talking to God while we are still fit and able, it will be difficult in our old age, when we'll likely be in even greater need of God's help, comfort and strengthening, and the steadfast conviction that He loves us and is with us.

Our focus as we age, he said, should be on strengthening the inner being. "Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied out through fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day...

"Since we consider and look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are visible are temporal (brief and fleeting), but the things that are invisible are deathless and everlasting" (2 Cor 4:16-18).

Living with a sense of gratitude is important too. "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you" it says in 1 Thess 5. Throughout the Bible we are exhorted, reminded, to give thanks to God and be grateful.

"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving" it says in Psalm 50. "O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!" says Psalm 118. I know myself how much I have to be thankful for every single day, how blessed I am, how many luxuries, comforts and privileges I enjoy. Even the so-called "basics" -- like good food, clean water, peace, safety and security -- are things we should always thank God for, and never take for granted.

If we stay busy thinking on, and thanking God for our blessings, our pastor said, there'd be no room for negative thoughts. He shared the story of Scottish divine Alexander Whyte, who was known for his uplifting prayers in the pulpit. Rev Whyte always found something to be thankful for.

One Sunday morning, though, the weather was stormy and dark, and Rev Whyte came in drenched and bedraggled, but unwilling to delay the service by going to change. Seeing him in his pathetic state, a deacon said, "He won’t be able to thank God for anything on a day like this!"

But much to his surprise, Rev Whyte began the service by praying, "We thank
thee, O God... that it is not always like this".

As I reflect on aging (and really, it's amazing how much one does this when one hits middle age), I am reminded of what one of my favourite authors, William Somerset Maugham, wrote in his book, The Summing Up: "The complete life, the perfect pattern, includes old age as well as youth and maturity. The beauty of the morning and the radiance of noon are good, but it would be a very silly person who drew the curtains and turned on the light in order to shut out the tranquillity of the evening. Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth".

And our pastor shared this wonderful quote by writer J. Robertson McQuilkin: "I think God has planned the strength and beauty of youth to be physical. But the strength and beauty of old age is spiritual. We gradually lose the strength and beauty that is temporary so we'll be sure to concentrate on the strength and beauty that is forever. And so we'll be eager to leave the temporary deteriorating part of us and be truly homesick for our eternal home. If we stayed young and strong and beautiful we might never want to leave".

For age is opportunity no less
Than youth itself, though in another dress,
And as the evening twilight fades away
The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
from Morituri Salutamus, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

2 comments:

Mongs said...

yes, I want to age gracefully too, with wrinkles and sags. Most important of all I hope to make positive impact on people's lives with my life experiences. And thanks for reminding me too to live a life of gratitude and thanksgiving.

mongs
mythriftycloset.blogspot.com

Elizabeth Rose Stanton said...

Such wonderful, wise advice -- for any age ;)
I love this post :)

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