Recently, I had the chance to reconnect with old classmates whom I have not seen in over 30 years. Ironically, this reunion took place at the funeral wake for a friend. As we celebrated her life, we also rejoiced at being able to see each other again after all these years. Everyone looked great – but truthfully none of us have escaped ageing unscathed.
In my mind, I still think I’m younger than I really am and I’m still getting used to being addressed as ‘Auntie’. But these days, my body is telling me otherwise. Joints stiffen in the morning, it’s getting harder to read without proper reading glasses and just last week I entered a room in my apartment and forgot why I went there in the first place.
It comes as no surprise then, that I have found my thoughts drifting towards ageing and end-of-life issues lately. Senior and ageing friends have shared that among the issues they worry about are their declining strength and health, feelings of uselessness, the loss of friends and loved ones through death and the reality of their own mortality.
Whether or not like me, you are ‘ageing’ or consider yourselves ‘aged’, the question that I have been asking myself lately is this – am I just growing old or am I ageing with purpose?
More importantly, how do I grow older God’s way?
The Word of God captures vividly the anxieties that come with ageing. Psalm 71 is the psalm of an old man with many trials and tribulations. But we see that he is joyful and focused on the Lord in the midst of his trials. The psalm shows us, put simply, that God’s way to grow old is to develop a walk with Him now. The psalmist is able to handle his problems so well in his age because he developed a relationship with God in the years leading to this time.
The truth is, no matter what age or station we are in life, we are called to do the same. Our Lord invites each of us to grow old gracefully– full of grace – in Him. We are invited to a deeper relationship with Him, to live as His disciples and be His witnesses in the Church and in the world.
So, the key to ageing gracefully is to mature and age in our faith and to shift our focus away from the fear of ageing, to the rich and abundant life that God calls us to live (John 10:10).
These days, to age gracefully for me is to grow in my relationship with the Lord – to know Him more intimately, love Him more deeply and walk with Him ever more closely – and as a result to grow in wisdom and understanding, and yield the fruit of the Holy Spirit in my daily life. It also means having the same mindset and effort that living a prosperous youth requires – positive attitudes, proper diet, regular exercise, fellowship with family and church communities.
It is important for us to remember that ageing (or old age) goes beyond the physical signs of slowing down that we see. We must continue to acknowledge that the life we have is a gift from God, which by His grace still holds many surprises and possibilities. It is a life that can and should be lived for the glory of God.
So yes, the aches and pains will come, the lines on my face will deepen, grey will be the new black on my hair and my eyesight and hearing will likely get worse as the years go by. But if viewed through the right lens, it also means that day by day, I am growing more and more dependent on the grace and strength of God. Self-reliance and pride can be replaced with dependence and humility as I learn to trust Him more and more.
And as St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:16, ‘Outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’, I can look forward to being more alive inside than ever before in my relationship with Jesus.
As far as ageing goes, that’s about as grace-filled as it can ever get!
‘Grey hair is a crown of glory, it is gained by a life that is just.’ – Proverbs 16:31.
Written by Cheryl Sim