Seated at the far side of the bed was her husband. He was there that day, as he was every day, tending to the needs of his wife. Thus was the fruit of true love and devotion. We shared amenities and I prepared myself for the anointing of his beloved wife. He looked at me with tired, heavily burdened eyes and spoke with a strong tone of sarcasm, “The Golden Years!”
We know little of the art of successful aging. It is defined erroneously as maintaining youthful appearance and capacity to the highest level one can. The marketplace is flooded with nostrums and gadgets designed to fend off the ravages of aging. Growing old well must elicit comments such as: “Gee! You look great for your age.” Therefore, old age is to be avoided and one stands victorious before the passage of years only to the degree one meets the criteria of youthfulness. In our culture’s view of life, youth is it – all of it.
The vagaries of life often despoil one’s carefully formulated plans for the future. Wisdom teaches that even the most reasonable of expectations are subject to the whims of fate. Scripture admonishes one to be attentive to the present and to arm oneself spiritually against any eventually. Prima facie the mortal body and the immortal soul may seem the very meat of dialectic, yet, in my view, the opposite is true. If life is a drama of growth and emerging significance, then the processes of aging are those of more not less. An individual of advanced years is a treasure chest waiting to be opened. He or she contains a richness and a wisdom not only owing to occupying a lengthy space of time in recent history, but also because of the experience of living itself. In life’s maturity one puts no claim on knowing all of the answers, but one is ready to share insights into truth and what in the last analysis is important. Then, there is the yearning to progress in faith and to step forward into the mystery of what is to be. The tiredness, the drowsy response to the day is partly metaphysical and expresses a need to move beyond the inadequacies of the current reality.
Age is not all decay; it is the ripening,
the swelling of the fresh life within,
that withers and bursts the husk.
– George MacDonald
The “life within” ought not to be restricted to a description of the soul’s effort to erupts through corporeal bonds and fly to heaven, but the rightful journey of one’s spiritual life.
Earthly existence is a time of learning and preparing for eternity. The experiences of life’s glories and horrors are challenges useful in the continuous metamorphosis of the soul. There is a tendency to misunderstand the character of spiritual becoming. It may not display itself in the manner of spiritual certainty and muscularity. Ultimately, one must humbly surrender one’s totality to the mercy and love of God. If the action of aging slowly escorts one to this realization, it may be credited as work well done. Perhaps, the masses of baby boomers entering old age will discover and celebrate the deep spiritual and worldly gifts of age as they might appreciate the fullness and value of an old, fine wine.