Like many others my age, I seem to prefer photos taken of me 20-30 years ago more than those taken this year. Funny how that works.
I remember my younger days, my skinny days, when I could easily run for miles, with my long hair flopping just off my shoulders. Now most of that hair has strangely disappeared, and I haven’t been able to run in years.
In fact, every day my body reminds me that the glory of youth is fleeting. I’m happy to say I’m in pretty good health, but this old sack of bones does have a few problems. Today as I’m writing these words, for example:
- I’m dealing with stiffness in my neck, an ongoing problem I’ve battled for more than 30 years.
- Tendonitis is flaring up in my right wrist and forearm, and in my left elbow.
- My left knee is swollen–a reminder of an injury I suffered in 2002.
- I just took my daily pills for a stomach ailment I’ll have for the rest of my life.
- I’m having focusing on the computer screen, which reminds me that I need to get my eyes checked.
- While eating some cookies I began thinking again about that 30-40 pounds I need to lose and that diet I will start next week … or maybe the week after that … or maybe after Christmas.
I could go on, but you get the picture. I promise I’m not a hypochondriac–I’m not obsessed with these ailments, and I’m not blowing things out of proportion. I share all this just to acknowledge the obvious, that as we grow older, our bodies deteriorate.
And I’m beginning to realize this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Job 12:12 tells us, “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” Words like these give me hope that, even as my body fades, my spirit can thrive.
For example, my aging body reminds me that my time on earth is limited. By God’s grace I will live another 20 years or so, so what am I going to do with this time? Fight against aging, and pretend I’m still young? Focus on seeking pleasure? My life is about glorifying God and seeking to influence others with the gospel; it seems to me that my most fruitful years may be ahead of me.
My body also reminds me of my need for other people. I believe we are wired to need other people–to be interdependent rather than independent. The older I grow, the more I understand how much I need my family, and particularly my wife, Merry. I suppose that’s also one of the great lessons of marriage–that you are better as a team than as an individual. And the longer you are married, the more you lean on each other. There will likely come a day when one of us becomes totally dependent on the other.
Most of all, this old sack of bones reminds me of my need for God. When you move past your prime physically, when the body is weak, it brings great comfort to know that your spirit can grow stronger year by year as you draw near to the Savior. Psalm 71 is an encouragement for anyone who is beginning to feel the aches and pains of age, for in this prayer an elderly man declares that he continues to find strength in God:
“For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. … I have become a marvel to many, for You are my strong refuge” (verses 5,7).
I hope that will continue to be my prayer in the next 20 years.
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