Aging Gracefully

by Dody Gibson

Maria De Jesus (da’ ha’sus) died at the age of 115 in January 10, 2009. She was the world’s oldest recorded living person. According to those who keep these records, there are 82 men and women who have passed their 110th birthday and more probably others living in more remote areas of the world in India, China or Africa. The new record now goes to Gertrude Baines, age 114, living in a nursing home in Los Angles, California. There doesn’t seem to be any connection to either good or bad life styles, such as drinking or smoking, but living longer does run in their families.

From the day we are born, we begin to age. At first we embrace it enthusiastically and it just can’t happen fast enough. We hear age stated as 5½ or only 2 more months until 21. Then suddenly or gradually something happens. The years pass more quickly. Birthdays come more often and no one puts the proper number of candles on our cake. We begin to spend more time on our wardrobe, more time shopping in the makeup department or searching more flattering hairstyles or beauty tips.

All this because we are born women. As such, we have inherited vanity. Men, on the other hand, have their ego. They go through life never having to wear makeup. A haircut about once a month takes care of that. One pair brown shoes, one pair of black shoes and a pair of Reeboks. They can get all their clothes in one closet leaving half of it for miscellaneous storage. Their underwear is all one color and doubles for pajamas.

Why is it that wrinkles and gray hair make men look distinguished but only ages a woman? There is definitely a bias or prejudice involved here or does our culture make us think this way?

We find ourselves influenced by the role models parading continually before us on T.V. or magazines, movies and on advertising wherever we go. We are led to believe that a certain product can change a 60-year-old face into one that looks 20 even though demonstrated on a 20 year old. And the Hollywood stars that are up in years still look like they did during their college days. This is the ‘look’ people expect them to have. It pays well and they can afford the very latest in surgical procedures which could, after a time, be compared somewhat to a facial transplant. They have professional make-up people 24/7, spa treatments, personal wardrobe experts and the best cameramen with good lighting and of course photo retouching. But for them it is a business and many hours a day are spent in the effort toward favorable results. There is a lot of competition.

But we will all grow older. The alternative is not an acceptable solution. Age not only affects our face but our bodies as well. We hurt in places we didn’t even know we had. Someone said, ‘It’s a shame that youth has to be wasted on the young.” They don’t appreciate it until it is gone. But life is a cycle. When we are born, someone has to dress us, feed us and bathe us and as we get older we learn how to care for ourselves. Then we reach a point where some of these things, if not all, are done for us. We pass through our young years not realizing the blessing that it is. Then slowly things begin to wane, things we wish we’d done or things we shouldn’t have done are left as they are. But time has passed and will not return again.

We come to accept the past and acknowledge that the years ahead of us are what we have left. Nothing can change that. So the wise will not spend time in regret but find useful ways to contribute while we can. And thank God everyday for what we have.

Aging does not have to be a bad thing. Remember God is older than any of us. He understands. He created us as we are. Youth may have desirable traits but age has experience and wisdom. The Psalmist stated the average age to be about three-score and 10 or perhaps as much as 80. Not to far from today’s statistics. One only has to read the obituary page in the newspaper to notice a lot of people are our age or even younger listed there. Growing old is a part of God’s plan. Its been said that the aches and pains we develop are just reminders not to get comfortable here for there is a better place awaiting for us. And one of the promises is that there is no time measured in Heaven, nor will we be old when we get there or age thereafter.

Age does not have the respect that it once had. Many examples in the Bible record the advantages of the elderly. Ruth’s respect for her mother-in-law and the blessing she received for that is a good one. (Ruth 1:16-17; 4:13) Also God’s direct disapproval of those who do not honor their elders. A short story in 2 Kings 2:23-25, when Elisha was entering Bethel, a group of children came forth out of the city and mocked him. They said, “Go thou up, thou bald head.” This meaning is ‘why don’t you die, old man.’ These children noticing the characteristic lack of hair common on an old man, thought it humorous to chide him about his age. But God did not think it funny and caused 2 female bears to come from the woods and either harm or kill 42 children. We think it unfair to punish small children but the greater sorrow will be for the parent’s loss who had neglected to teach them proper respect for the elderly. This from Bethel, a village that’s name means, ‘house of God.’

We have come to consider appearance as a very important quality and that it makes the first and lasting impression. Fortunately God is not impressed nor is He deceived by our physical appearance. Therefore, those with no outward beauty and even the grossest deformities can go to Heaven and most probably they will have an advantage because they will not be tempted like the beautiful people.

Israel came to Samuel and asked for a king. They wanted one like all the other nations and to lead them into battle. The one chosen was Saul, and attractive young man and very tall. Yes, very much like the giants, which inhabited the land about them. “But God gave them a king in His anger and He took him away in His wrath.” (Hos 13:11) No, God does not look on the physical as an attribute. When God chose David, Saul’s successor, “it was not on the outward appearance, because the Lord looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

This then, is what pleases God, not the outer beauty but the inner beauty of the soul. Christians also begin to assess the true value of a person by the condition of the heart. With age, we learn to notice the manifestations of these qualities. Body language is very telling and difficult to disguise. Is the person a good listener? Is there good eye contact? Are they smiling? Do they only want to talk about themselves or dominate a conversation? We can all be guilty of some of these things some of the time. But there are people who are masters of this and we all know some of them.

We can’t change the world but we do have control over ourselves and as such we are setting a good example.

Refusing to grow old will not work and won’t fool anyone but ourselves for a time. It is sad to watch those who try. One of the first things we notice is a middle aged woman dressing and hair styles like someone in their 20’s. Let’s be proud of the years God has given us and not be afraid to state the years exactly. Men don’t seem to be as guilt of this as women but there are a few.

Remember, you are not old as long as you can laugh at ‘old people’ jokes. Also you can tell the age of a person by what they are putting in their grocery cart. I know you’ll be glancing at others next shopping trip, right? And I will be careful what I’m putting in mine!

Yes, humor is a great escape. Troubles don’t seem so bad as long as we can laugh at them. And no, that isn’t some old woman hogging the bathroom mirror every time you go in there. You’re going to smile next time you walk in there, right? One of the popular female comedians said she had more lines on her legs than the National Geographic but that was good for no matter where she goes, she’ll never be lost.

Nature is not biased. We will all get old if we live long enough. It’s not that this old body is slowing down and outliving its usefulness but that it is being prepared for rebirth into a new world. Aging happens to the rich and famous, beggars and common folk, men and women, the wise and the ignorant. Dimmer vision, fainter sounds, diet restrictions, physical restrictions, memory that isn’t what it used to be and also memory that isn’t what it used to be. ???

We must accept getting old. It is here to stay. It’s part of the last final exam in this test of life. God understands. Maybe we aren’t able to drive to visit someone who is sick but we can send a card. Maybe we can’t prepare a meal and take to a hungry family but we can pray for them. And if a younger person offers to take you to an appointment, let them. For it you say no, you are denying them the opportunity to do a good deed.

No matter how old we get, we all have talent left to us. I remember a wonderful Christian woman in a congregation we attended. Her name was Cleo Snow. She had to have help getting up 6 or 7 steps to the front door but she was so excited to be there. Her smile lit up the whole room and warmed the heart of everyone there.

People do improve with age. Like antiques, they grow in value. We learn to change the standards used in judgment. Our resume changes. It is not the physical attributes listed on the job qualification line anymore, but the spiritual. The body will return to the earth, but the soul will last forever. It matters not that you won a beauty contest, but how you lived your life as a Christian. Our body was designed to sustain us in a physical world, it is temporary. God knew we would need these things and we see His great love in all the generous, extravagant, beyond necessity, blessings He gives to us every day. But nothing compares with the sacrifice Jesus made to take away our sins. It was part of God’s plan before the creation of the entire universe.

Everyone gets old. Everyone will not go to heaven. A lot of people think they will but they will be mistaken. Sincerity won’t get you there. A careful search of God’s word and obedience to it is the only way. The wise will be prepared. It will take a lot of faith to reach the unknown but with God’s help, we will make it.
Millstadt, IL 62260

Dody Gibson See other articles by Dody Gibson