Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Growing Old Gracefully

Having just returned from a choir reunion where I saw friends I haven't seen in nearly 35 years, growing old is on my mind. Everyone looked great but none of us have escaped unscathed. Being in my 50s, I am supposedly at what is called "middle-age." Making it to 110, however, seems to be a stretch. Young people don't think about "growing old," which is understandable since they have yet to experience the reality of declining physical strength and mental capabilities. For them getting older has always meant getting better as they draw closer to the peak of their physical maturity. I go to bed feeling relatively good and wake up feeling like something really bad happened to me while I was asleep. The truth is (in another sense), the older we get, we do either grow better or worse. I have seen it time-after-time: whatever has been packed in while we were young will ooze back out when we're old. The later years can be the graceful years or the grumpy years. We either get better or we get bitter. Perhaps you've thought, "I'll never be like that when I get old!" But growing old gracefully doesn't happen by accident.

God has given us some biblical examples. Consider Moses, at the age of 120 (note the vigor of the speeches in Deuteronomy): "Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished" (Deut. 34:7). Remember Joshua, as he addressed the elders of Israel (note his conviction): "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh 24:15). Then we have Dorcas, who helped the poor and widows: "At Joppa there was a certain disciple named Tabitha, which is translated Dorcas. This woman was full of good works and charitable deeds which she did" (Acts 9:36). We also have the graceful manner in which the Apostle Paul faced death: "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Peter also aged gracefully, remaining diligent as death approached: "Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease" (2 Peter 1:13-15).

The Bible is not the only place where we find examples of people growing old gracefully. I'm sure we've all known such attractive people. I've certainly been blessed to know a number of them in my life, along with the cranky ones. Mature grace is beautiful to behold. Victor Hugo observed: "When grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age." Growing old gracefully, like many good things, doesn't happen by accident; it takes concentrated effort, so be diligent and persevere! Such a person will be like those described in Psalm 92:12-15:

12     The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,
     He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13     Those who are planted in the house of the Lord
     Shall flourish in the courts of our God.
14     They shall still bear fruit in old age;
     They shall be fresh and flourishing,
15     To declare that the Lord is upright;
     He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.


  1. Excellent article. I need to be reminded of this every day.

  2. Thank you for the great reminder! Another good example is the Proverbs 31 woman (especially verses 25-31).