A friend of mine recently expressed concern about her age. Not that she’s feeling any different than when she was young, but she’s noticed people treating her differently, like they do the elderly. She’s NOT elderly, and the idea that others look at her as if she is, was disturbing.
As it happens, that morning I read from the book of Proverbs. One of the verses gives perspective on my friend’s concern:
A gray head is a crown of glory;
It is found in the way of righteousness. (Prov. 16:31)
This verse also reminded me of the New Testament passage that contrasts what happens to a believer’s body with what happens to his spirit:
Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. (2 Cor. 4:16)
Clearly, the more days we rack up, the more our inner man will be renewed. Other passages in Scripture make it clear this renewal is spiritual, drawing us closer to God:
[you Colossian Christians] have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Col. 3:10)
Perhaps the most powerful passage indicating this inner-man relationship with God comes in Ephesians:
[Paul’s prayer is] that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. (3:16-19)
Over and over, Scripture also contrasts the temporal with the eternal, and the latter always comes out on top as that which matters most. Paul refers to this life as “momentary light affliction”:
For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18)
Sadly our culture has grown further and further from this perspective that the unseen far outweighs the seen. Once we recognized the wisdom of age and the experience. We even admired the courage and example seniors set for us. And the elders in our churches most likely were indeed elders.
As western culture has grown more and more preoccupied with pleasure, we’ve elevated beauty and the body and youth. Seniors? We’re talking more and more about euthanasia, not the strength of the inner man. Because, after all, life is about being healthy and fit and strong and virulent. When these things start to fade—when the outer man starts to decay—what’s the point?
How wrong that perspective is. Above all else, those with gray heads can teach the rest of us what a strong inner man looks like. No, we can’t see the inner man, but we can see gentleness instead of anger, hope instead of despair, contentment instead of dissatisfaction, peace instead of hostility, and the joy of the Lord instead of bitterness.
Our culture may not value the older generation, but God seems to. Later in Proverbs He says gray hair is the honor of the old. When He gave the people of Israel the Law, He specified they were to “rise up before the grayheaded and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:32).
The bottom line for those of us who are aging . . . which would be, all of us . . . is to remember that God looks on the heart today in the same way He did when He was about to have Samuel anoint David as King of Israel. It’s the heart that matters for eternity, not the clay jars in which it is temporarily housed.
Now is the time to grow in our walk with God, to yield to His work to make us in the image of His Son.
The stuff the world tells us we should do to stay young and vibrant? It’s a sham. No matter how young we may look, the parts don’t work as well as they once did. The outer man is fading and will continue to fade no matter how much we might like to stop time.
Aging is part of sin’s curse. God never intended us to die, but someone recently opened my eyes to the fact that even the curse, God turned into a blessing. Because of God’s mercy and grace, this decaying body will one day be replaced with a new, better, 2.0 model.
Something to look forward to.