The Fine Art of Growing Old(er) Gracefully

It's bewildering to be barreling toward middle age when you don't feel like a middle-ager. This summer, my birthday will put  me smack dab in the center of middle age...that is if I live to be 90. It's sobering to realize that I probably have more years of living under my belt than are ahead of me.

I look in the mirror and see how the aging process has sped up. Just a few short years ago, people would mistake me for being in my 20's. No one in their right mind would make that mistake now. I used to get called Miss, now it's exclusively ma'am.

Growing old is a blessing, but it sure doesn't feel like it when it's happening to you right before your eyes at warp speed. Even though my best years physically may be behind me, I want my best years spiritually and emotionally to be before me.

If there's one thing that's sure, I want to grow old gracefully and embrace the blessedness of maturity in age. In my early 20s, I was surrounded by a encouraging group of seasoned women who I learned to glean from instead of avoid.

I remember the time when my pastor's wife suggested that I (and a few of my 20-something girlfriends) give Mother Jones a ride to a church event. Mother Jones was a white-haired mother of the church who sho 'nuff loved Jesus. But she seemed strict and somber. The thought of an hour-plus drive with Mother Jones led to eye-rolling among my group of friends, but being the obedient young women that we were, we picked her up at the senior housing complex where she lived. What I discovered on that drive was the deep wisdom that Mother Jones' life held and how old age didn't make her invisible or unapproachable. She enjoyed our music, ate a hamburger with us to our surprise and had a wonderful sense of humor. I walked away with a greater appreciation for the lifelong wisdom that she was willing to pour into our young lives.

What struck  me about Mother Jones' is that she loved Jesus heartily and while her physical strength was declining her spiritual endurance was not. She was running her race strong and well and I admired and desired that.

George Macdonald said, ‘If you knew what God knows about death you would clap your listless hands’, but instead I find old people in North America just buying this whole youth obsession. I think growing older is a wonderful privilege. I want to learn to glorify God in every stage of my life.
— Elisabeth Elliot

As I look forward, my greatest heart's desire is to run this Christian race well and end strong. I want to go hard; exhausting every strength and talent for Jesus Christ. I want a heart for God that is not ashamed to proclaim His goodness. I want a shining white-haired crown of glory like Mother Jones and lips that rehearse God's goodness. I want my heart to burn within me with an inextinguishable flame of love for Jesus Christ. 

Instead of falling victim to middle-aged angst, I am discovering that the secret to growing older gracefully is accepting it as an asset and not a liability. Here are a few things I'm learning that are helping the process:

  1. Teach the younger. The Bible admonishes the older women to teach the younger. I look back fondly on the older woman who freely deposited goodness into my life (often without me even realizing it). I hope to pay it forward and do the same with younger women who cross my path.

  2. Use your gifts to the glory of GodThey still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, Just because I'm older doesn't mean I have to (or want to slow down). The dominance of youth culture doesn't negate the fact that older women are still necessary. Myles Monroe used to always say, "die empty."  There shouldn't be a gift in our life that isn't used fully to the glory of  God.

  3.  See the beauty in old age. There's a wisdom that can only come with age and experience. Maturity is a beautiful thing and so is being confident in it.

I have to remember that my identity is hid with Christ in God. I am not defined by middle age no more than I am only defined by by job or motherhood. That's not where my worth is. I also have to continually fight the temptation to think that my worth has lessened because I'm past my prime young years. 

Finishing life to the glory of Christ means finishing life in a way that makes Christ look glorious. It means living and dying in a way that shows Christ to be the all-satisfying Treasure that he is.
— John Piper