When I’m 84

Alexandra Pennycook, Portrait of An Elderly Couple, used by permission of the artist (http://www.pennycook.com/)

Somewhere in our journey of life, we will encounter others who are growing old. How should we treat them? This is important seeing that eventually others will be asking the same question about us.

Exodus 20:12; Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 23:33; Ecclesiastes 12:1-8; John 21:18-19

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Music: “When I’m Sixty-Four,” by Sir Paul McCartney and John Lennon, performed by The Hit Co., Love Songs: A Tribute to the Beatles, Planet Music, 2006.

Intentional Faithfulness: Meditations on What It Means to Be Human

bfb161104-elderly-coupleIt takes a conscious effort for me to bless an elderly person whose slow, feeble steps are impeding my progress.  The default position in my mind is to examine possibilities for hastening the moment when I can get them out of my way.  Much though I am reluctant to admit it, that default position amounts to a curse aimed at removing an obstacle to my own selfish definition of happiness.  That is why I am cultivating the habit of blessing the gray head.  I have lived enough years to know that each of those gray hairs was purchased at great cost, both in joy and in sorrow.  Who am I to ridicule those transactions in time and sweat and blood and tears, seeing that I, too, engage in those same transactions every moment of every day?

This is the way of all flesh, and it scares us.  We do not like to consider the fact that we all are destined to grow old – provided something does not take us out before our time.  That reality first dawned on me as a teenager, watching my once-vigorous grandfather lie helpless in a hospital bed, swollen with the fluids that would eventually crush his heart.  Then there was my mother, whose loud and lively voice was silenced in the last weeks of her life by the feeding tube the doctors inserted in a desperate attempt to help her recover.  And my father?  The pain there was watching his brilliant mind lose its ability to remember, until at last he could recall nothing more than the blissful sleep of eternity.

Surely growing old is not for the faint of heart.  Solomon understanding of this led him to a very wise conclusion:

Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, before the difficult days come, and the years draw near when you say, “I have no pleasure in them”:
While the sun and the light, the moon and the stars, are not darkened, and the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men bow down;
When the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look through the windows grow dim;
When the doors are shut in the streets, and the sound of grinding is low;
When one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of music are brought low.
Also they are afraid of height, and of terrors in the way;
When the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails.
For man goes to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets. 
(Ecclesiastes 12:1-6 NKJV)

Careful reading of Solomon’s poetry reveals his references to weak and aching muscles, brittle bones, dim eyes, deaf ears, rotting teeth, jaded spirit, and broken heart.  It is enough to drive one to desperation – which is why Solomon begins this passage with an exhortation to remember the Creator while we can.  Without the Creator and the hope He imparts, we face a terrifying descent into debility before we cease breathing.

Which explains why each generation since Adam has wished so intently for the resurrection.

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