Advancing my day-timer to 2019 was reality check time. The numbers were registering a truth that I've known but hadn't really thought about in all of the holiday festivities. It was first grade mathematics. You know, 2019 - 1949 = ta da and drum rolls please, 70. Sonny and the members of the Class of '67 (high school) and the Class of '71 (college) were entering their seventieth calendar year. OK, quibbler, I know I won't be 70 until October 27, 2019. But, last Tuesday our cohort, for the most part, began our eighth decade on planter earth. It was like the above picture. When I shaved that morning my young self stared right into the eyes of my real self. Ouch!
Maybe it's true of every generation but us boomers are typically in some form of age denial. While thousands, as many as 10,000, are retiring every single day many of us are still enduring the morning commute to careers or other work situations. The demographers explain that by and large our cohort didn't plan for the future and as a result aren't financially prepared for retirement. One reason is that age crept us on us, slipping in the back door of our busy lives. So, we wake up to 2019 and other more shocking reminders of age in a state of surprise. An obvious illustration is the number of our crowd serving as greeters in the big box stores, or servers in our favorite restaurant. And, it's not just about income to supplement our Social Security checks or or other retirement sources. There's also the dreaded "nothing to do" syndrome. I mean, how much yard care and golf and coffee time can satisfy our need for activity.
There are other subtleties to what I perceive as age denial too. A fellow pastor told me not long ago that his church "isn't my grandmothers" church. It's probably because his image of a grandmother is a sweet little old lady with a bun in her hair. Even more, there's this new grandparent name challenge. Us boomers are super creative city when we choose a name by which our grandchildren will refer to us. My grandparents were Mama and Papa, four aged and experienced people who grew up in hard times. Today our grands call us Mimi and Ganga. I really loved my four grandparents. But, I dare those two beautiful grands to call me one of those old sounding names. What in the world? And, what in the world does it mean when some younger genius tells me I'm a young looking sixty nine? Is he afraid that telling me I look my age is going to offend me. Denial, indeed.
The Bible speaks to aging in very clear terms. The Psalmist wrote, " Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12, ESV). Learning, knowing, and tracking our days is an important step toward spiritual maturity and the wisdom that should define life. But, this wisdom isn't as automatic as the world system often suggests. Sure, the Bible gives tribute to the gray hair typically associated with the human aging. Solomon wrote, "The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old" (Proverbs 20:29, ESV). We cannot assume, however, that all gray haired older people are wise. Experience and knowledge are certainly natural by products of long lives. Still, some older people are just geezers, unwise even in spite of the years. Some of the most immature people I know are older people. They don't know what to do with the knowledge, information, and experience they've absorbed over the years. Sad.
We should know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (see Proverbs 9:10). With wisdom we can fathom the many biblical metaphors about the brevity of life. You know grass that withers, vapor that fades, a shadow, a wind that passes, and many more. One access point to this wisdom is numbering our days. Being honestly aware of our age gives us the grace to fulfill the Apostle Paul's challenge about "...making the best use of the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16, ESV). Knowing where we are in life enables us to grow beyond mere knowledge, information, and experience to the maturity that should rightly attend our age. It is the maturity to realize that "...we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV). It can birth agreement in our hearts to what King David prayed, "Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come" (Psalm 71: 18, ESV).
Later on January 1, 2019, I was humming an old song. It was Tennessee Ernie Ford's Sixteen Tons. For the life of me I can't imagine why such an old song was on my mind. It was perhaps the age thing from another angle. It's really is a golden oldie. "Sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt...". It made me think about aging and my hopes and desires in this seventh year. No, I don't want to be deeper in debt. My prayer is to be another day older and more wise and mature.