Do you identify with a friend’s recent comment: “Old age ain’t for sissies!” This smiling, faith-filled woman lives with a husband who is regrettably falling quickly into a kind of mental weariness with accelerated memory loss. What just a few months ago was mere “forgetfulness” has become chronic, a condition which will soon require constant attention. Another friend at this same hour expressed frustration with decreasing energy that prevents her from being as active in people’s lives and worldwide Christian outreach as she was in earlier years.
My part of the conversation? I was just plain tired that day! The recent schedule had been relentlessly full with absolutely wonderful things requiring mental attention, spiritual concentration, emotional outpouring and physical WORK. Some nights provided the refreshment of sleep, others found me awake too late as well as too early. Body parts—those that can’t be replaced!—too frequently ached with the reminder that medications (which I resist) offer only temporary relief and in reality can’t eliminate the very natural process of aging. (The described schedule fortunately isn’t my constant state of affairs, but that’s a topic for another day.)
This is a new and different season of life that seems to creep up unexpectedly. In writing about the futility of regret, but with words that seem to also apply to this subject, Michelle Van Loon writes, “The autumn and winter years of our lives are by definition, a time to accept what we didn’t do and can never reclaim. It is soul-sobering to recognize that life doesn’t come with a reset button.”
For those of us who find deep satisfaction in following after Christ, serving him and others in his name, it becomes a challenge to creatively “keep on keeping on,” recognizing that the following and serving will look different in this season. I seriously doubt that I will take more forty-hour plane trips to parts of the world where my heart overflows with love and compassion for the girls and boys, women and men. But they live on in my mind: their faces clear, their bamboo-roofed homes vivid, the suckling babies ever present. I can’t hug them any more, but I can pray for them. I can help finance water for their villages. And I even have the privilege of writing about them. All that describes my “reset button.” Life and serving aren’t over; they’re just different.
“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…I have learned the secret of being content…” Note those italicized words. Learning implies process. Time. Adjustment. Secret makes me think of gifts not yet opened. Treasures to discover if I only pay attention: life, moments, people, thoughts, ideas, understandings, experiences, knowledge. The list goes on. No, old age ain’t for sissies but for the courageous who walk with the same-yesterday-today-and-forever Jesus. Those willing to enthusiastically and patiently press the reset button each morning so life can continue with joy and fulfillment.