I almost deleted the whole thing—but realized that would be to succumb to the very thing I’m warning against.
I know that our society panics at the thought of death. Witness countless magazine covers pimping the idol of youth and over-promising-and-under-delivering face creams.
All of this speaks to the fear of death. The thing we refuse to talk about. And when we do, in muted tones and with general befuddlement.
Part of that is probably because many are head-scratchingly confused about death. Plus, grief and grieving are such complex things that they make quantum physics seem like a walk in the park.
But I think I can pinpoint the day I got old.
It was 2 Fridays ago. I twisted my back and threw it out. It’s not even a cool story. You’d think I might be downhill skiing or in the middle of a guitar solo. But no.
The person who usually changes the wording on the church sign couldn’t do it. I had a few moments so I did it myself. I twisted around while ironically taking the words “Youth Weekend” off, and down I went.
That night I was shuffling around like a 98-year old, needing Laura to get me off the couch. Literally.
It’s happened before but this time it was much worse. After several trips to the chiro (Thanks Dr. Jilla) I’m on the mend. I appear “normal.” It’s all related to a hockey injury in Bantam when I was taken to the hospital after a hit from behind.
And I feel compelled to tell you know that I’m pretty dedicated to being in shape. I workout 4 times a week. I say this so you won’t think my breakdown was a result of general sloth. I take to heart Geneen Roth’s wisdom, that “Passion, strength, joy cannot take root in exhausted, burdened, half-dead bodies.”
Today I’m 37. High school was half my life ago and in twice my life I’ll be 74, which is pretty close to life expectancy for men these days. But you know what?
I’m good with that.
It’s partly because I’m not afraid of death. Yes I have a strong Christian faith. And I firmly believe that in God’s mind-blowing eternity, looking back over our horrific challenges in this life will feel (as St. Teresa of Avila has said) “like one night in a bad hotel.”
As a pastor, I’ve journeyed with many people to their own death. I’ve held hands, prayed with, and encouraged people as they left this world. I’ve been with them during their final breaths. And something I often hear from those who leave earth with a strong faith is that they too don’t fear death. They sometimes fear the suffering and sorrow that comes before—but death itself, No.
I’ve also seen people whose soaring only happened later in life. A good wine takes time to mature into brilliant.
But I think in the final analysis, getting old is not to be feared—especially if we stop fretting about the past, worrying about the future, and thrive in who we were made to be today in the here and now. In God’s eyes we’re timeless. No one is young to God. Nor is anyone old.
As someone once said, “Don’t resent growing old. Many are denied the privilege.”
I think our culture’s infatuation with youth not only has to do with a fear of death but a deep dark dissatisfaction with who we are as people, and our goals. Health and happiness, we discover, are nice pathways for a while, but ultimately dead-end streets.
Our lives are like money. The more money we have the more it possesses us. Likewise, the more we focus on our youth, the more we are blinded to the myriad of other riches right before our eyes. The older we get, the richer the experience, the wiser our days, the more multi-layered our joy. At least, it can be.
Sometimes a false idol is only as far away as a mirror.
So the day I got old was Friday, Feb 21st.
I know that based on what I’ve said, I’m still young too. But the point is this: It really doesn’t matter.
Are you afraid of getting older? Why? Is it because of a loss of independence, or a fear of facing the fact that some dreams may not be reached, or a body that will fail you, or spirit-bruising pains, or…
Or is it something deeper?
A final thought:
There are some incredible young people who are making a brilliant difference in our world. But for the rest of us, sometimes being too focused on being young, gives us the false impression that we have our whole life ahead of us—and therefore, a lot of time to delay commitments, get your life figured out, do the right thing, make a healthy life change, whatever it may be.
The focus of my message at church this week was that we are set free to love freely.
But that time is now.
There is literally no time to lose. And that’s true no matter how old you are.