by Peeter Lukas
“What is your life? For you are a mist [“a vapour” KJV, NASB] that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
Every other Wednesday morning a group of older URC men meet. We gave ourselves the modest name of “The Royal Order of Geezerdom.” You’d need to be over the age of 60 to fully appreciate the name (or humor). We talk and pray and look at the Word. Simple but edifying. Last year we talked, appropriately enough, about old age.
On January 1, 1960, land developer Del Webb opened what he called the first “active retirement community” in Sun City, Arizona. Brochures from the time spoke of “your passport to pleasure…bask in the warm sun or just loaf…be a Sun Citizen for a week…enjoy a vacation paradise.” It was hoped that after a week’s visit golfing, swimming, and loafing, you’d want to stay a lifetime. The marketing pitch, directed to the 55-plus age group, used terms like “the new leisure set” and “the friendly years” as well as “the golden years“ for the first time. Compare these to the words of Psalm 92:14 – “They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green….” Or as J.I. Packer says in his last published book Finishing Our Course with Joy, “The world opposes and says, ‘relax – take it easy – take your mind off these things’. Idleness, self-indulgence, and irresponsibility are the goals of one’s declining years – you can now cater to yourself.”
Romans 12:2 in the Phillips translation says, “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold.” And both generations, old and new, are being squeezed:
- The older generation’s view of the “golden years” has already been described by Del Webb and J.I. Packer. Some, by default, in their latter years reveal what’s really important to them. Again, the words of Packer: “[Some older people] behave as though spiritual gifts and ministry skills wither with age. But they don’t; what happens, rather, is that they atrophy with disuse.”
- The younger generation tends to fall into the trap that C.S. Lewis described as “chronological arrogance”, where any book or person or thing over 50 years of age is considered irrelevant. Of course, if the older person is pursuing #1 then who’s to blame for #2?
And this creates a closed loop. The older generation doesn’t teach, and the younger generation doesn’t learn how great God is. This ought not to be.
Christian psychologist Paul Tournier observes, “…in the autumn of their lives, they are reaching the summer of wisdom.“ To borrow the words of a book title, it should be a time of progress from “ageing to sageing.” And there are the words of Job 12:12 – “Wisdom is with the aged and understanding in length of days”.
For some of us, these are our spiritual “golden years”, a time to take the mantle of responsibility upon ourselves, as much as health and opportunity allows. As one author said, it’s a time for the responsibility of…
“Since seniors are living close to the edge of their lifespan, they should be infecting others with a joyous way of life.” (James Houston)
Lord, please help for this to be so!