Getting Older

In matters of health, I was raised well.  I may have chafed at their instruction, but I got clearly what my parents were trying to convey, that you have to take care of your body, and that you have to do so by eating right and exercising.  I appreciate having those habits engrained in me and am trying to do the same with my kids.

When you are young, the natural outcome of this kind of mindset is that as long as you take care of things, everything will be OK.  And, indeed, when you are young, this is true: eating right and exercising keeps your body healthy, and any maladies you may encounter are eventually overcome through the right medicines and therapies as well as enough time.  And, when you are young, time is on your side, in two ways: one is that you have lots of it, and two is that your body restores itself relatively quickly.

Getting older changes this equation.  It's obviously still and even more important to eat right and to exercise.  But doing this no longer guarantees that you'll feel great all the time.  Speaking of time, things take longer to heal, and you also begin to realize that you're slowly but surely running out of time.  Practically, you spend more time on medical things.  When I was in my 20's or 30's, I did a physical every two or three years, and it was perfunctory: my habits were good, my labs were good, and I was in and out in minutes.  Nowadays, I go in more often, and even though I'm in relatively good shape, inevitably something raises an eyebrow and next thing you know I'm getting multiple follow-up tests and check-ins scheduled.  What was once a short visit every two or three years has now become a handful or more of blotches on my busy schedule every year.

Getting older can be frustrating...if we don't recalibrate ourselves based on the wisdom we should be gaining as we age.  Thinking like a young person in a body that is slowly betraying us is a formula for bitterness and despair.  As our bodies age, so must our attitudes wisen.  From a Christian's perspective, we must let go of ways that we subtly associated our faith walk with a young person's privileges and learn how to be faithful in and with an aging body.

For a "Type A" workaholic like me, this has been a rude adjustment.  The young person's response to much of life's challenges is that they can be overcome with a brute force marshaling of sufficient time, energy, and insight.  I am no longer a young person, and so I lack the time, energy, and insight commensurate with today's challenges.  The realization of this can be cause for raging...or it can be a window into an important life lesson that it was never just about deploying our time, energy, and insight, important as they are.  It was always and will always be about what God can do through and for us.

Yes, He desires all of our time, energy, and insight.  But He desires that we understand where they came from, and that when we overcome through them we are really overcoming through Him, and that at times we overcome not at all through them but in spite of ourselves and in spite of and through our weaknesses and limitations and mistakes.

You often see in sports how the hot-shot youngster who dominates through sheer athleticism morphs over time into the grizzled veteran who gets by on guile and craftiness and wisdom and preparation.  And we evolve in this way too.  But even that grizzled veteran eventually must retire to the sidelines, and so it is with us.  But the team goes on.  And so does God's work, even as our role in it changes over time.  Getting older can be frustrating...or it can be liberating.  Which it is for me on any given day is a good barometer of where I am in my faith walk.

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