Many of us have mixed feelings about aging. As we approach what has been called the “third third of life,” we sometimes reflect wistfully on those parts of life that we are losing. As young people, for example, most of us take our physical abilities for granted. We seem to think of ourselves as invulnerable. Yet as we grow older we realize that we have slowly become more susceptible to ailments and disease.
While aging often includes a relinquishing of our former physical abilities, I believe it also includes the development of new and lasting memories, capabilities, and wisdom.
God’s Word is replete with stories of how God has used God’s people, young and old, for God’s glory. These Bible stories fly in the face of current conventional wisdom that the old are “past their prime” and are less useful than younger people.
Consider the story of Abraham. At the age of 75, God asked him to leave his home and embark on a journey of creating a new generation of God’s people. In modern history, we see many examples of artists, writers, and political leaders who are in their “latter years” making important contributions to our world that they didn’t or couldn’t make when they were younger.
God uses all of us, regardless of age, for God’s glory.
In the Christian Reformed Church, our average age is increasing. While we still have young families and new children born, as a whole denomination we are aging. Viewed through our normal cultural lenses, this can be a significant problem. However, recognizing the God we serve and how God has used many in the past and present, there is another way to view our condition.
God has blessed us with capable, wise, discerning, and experienced saints who can still significantly impact the world if they allow themselves to be available to God.
In this issue of The Banner, we reflect on examples within the church of how to better care for our aging population. We also reflect on how our aging population is being used to bless the church and the world. Many congregations are now implementing opportunities for intergenerational ministry—young and old co-laboring together, just as God intended, for the benefit of both.
As I get closer to my own retirement, I often reflect on the fact that the only time “retirement” is referenced in the Bible is in the story of the priests attending God’s tabernacle. At the age of 50, these men were asked to stop serving directly and instead to become mentors to the younger generation (Num. 8:25). This is a beautiful picture of what retirement can be: not retirement from all labor, but retirement from a position or activity while we transition to a new role. Retirement can be a shift into mentorship and support of the new generations who assume the mantle of leadership.
May we live into this reality with all of the seasoned and wise people and resources with which God has graced us.