Who doesn't want to live a productive, fulfilling, long life? Yes, I know the sweet and compelling promise that "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (See Philippians 1:21, ESV) that gave the Apostle such confidence and boldness in ministry. And, the longing for heaven or the afterlife is a genuine moment by moment prayer for many whose daily existence is a crucible of endless pain and agony. Still, the majority of us want to live out our promised seventy or eighty years (see Psalm 90:10) as positively and effectively as possible. This is because reaching advanced age is a cherished life blessing in most cultures. The man in the mirror on January 1 was reminding me that we had perhaps arrived at that mile-marker.
Growth is expected progress to the human species. Unless there is some sort of physical malfunction we humans grow through the phases of life naturally. The tiny blip in the womb, which is a real live person, miraculously transforms into an infant, toddler, child, adolescent, teen, young adult, middle age, and geezer over a lifetime that has been compared to a shadow, vapor, grass, and other metaphors of brevity. Growing old is what happens in a normal life span. That's not to say we cherish it all that much or embrace it with joy. It's real, the age thing and most of us are eventually resigned to it. But, along the way we've mastered the arts of war against it with every weapon of modern creativity. Growing old may be an honored place in life's hierarchy. Still, we cling to youth until at last we see the person in the mirror and gracefully acknowledge him or her.
In childhood our parents and extended families marked door frames as proof of our physical growth. Along the way they also teased and scolded us with the parallel dynamic of growing up. That means that our mind and spirit were expected to keep pace with our physical progression through the stages of life. It's more mental and spiritual development than physical, this growing up. In the process over the years we should reach the exit ramp of immaturity and enter life's mature zone. Old age isn't the destination here. Maturity is the goal. And, of course, that is the sad picture of modern America. For the most part we're growing old but not growing up. It's a prime signpost of the boomer cohort too, that we're aging but with little connection to the maturity of growing up. Get real! Being playful and childish is a lot more fun.
Immaturity touches our lives at several critical points. With a biblical worldview my concern is with the spiritual immaturity so evident across the demographic profiles of our nation. There is a new shallowness, even among the Christian elements of our population, that relegates belief, faith, and spiritual commitment to the margins of personal life. Who would have ever believed that "nominal Christians" would predominate the Christian profile of America? You know, Christians in name only. As the people on church rolls grow older, they're not growing more mature. It's a serious demographic puzzle. We're growing old but not growing up.
Well, yes, of course, as Jesus is our example in Godly living, finishing our assignment from the Father, and every other human consideration, he is our model of growth as well. Dr. Luke gave us glimpses into his early life where Mary and Joseph superintended his development. There are elements of his personal growth and of growing up, emotionally and spiritually. Luke wrote---
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was
Luke 2: 40, ESV
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2: 52, ESV
Yes, I know the perplexing dilemma of grasping our Lord's fully man/fully Divine nature. Whether by the hand of God or the influence of his earthly parents, however, Jesus Christ grew through the stages of life physically, emotionally, and spiritually. and grew He matured physically in stature, emotionally in his favor with men, and spiritually in being filled with wisdom and favor with God. God the Father guided his personal growth and development so that we mere humans could have a model of life-long development, the goals of growing old and growing up. Scripture reminds us that Jesus did not grow old. His earthly work was finished on a cross in Jerusalem while he was yet a young man. But those vignettes of his early life affirm that he grew up as he grew older. He showed his disciples the meaning of maturity.
On January 1 the numbers 2019, scrolled in large print across the screen of my MAC. The math was a startling reminder that I was beginning my seventh year, as in 70. The questions were instant and probing. How was I handling the stewardship of this influence, the influence of being an older American? And, two, had I grown up as I had grown old? Like it or not, they are questions with which our generational cohort must deal in this New Year and the years to come.
As a believer, my model must be the person of Jesus Christ. And, he grew up---in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man. That should be my prayer and goal for 2019---the seventieth year. As in 70...Growing up while growing old.