Last December an interesting article titled Between 65 and Death was distributed through FaceBook. It consisted of numbered advice items for those of us in the title age group. There were twenty-one short paragraphs with some common sense counsel about handling many life issues in these final years. Evidently it had been around for a while and I couldn't identify the actual author. If you would like to read the article click here. This is a reprint from Seniors Lifestyle Magazine. While I do agree with many of the points, a few are questionable. I was disappointed that so few spiritual ideals were considered. More than anything, the article triggered my own thought processes and the single Scripture verse that has been meaningful as I passed the 65 age mentioned in the title. At age 70, this Bible verse still resonates with life right now. It is from the Psalms---
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12, ESV
The brevity of life is a consistent biblical theme. Those individuals God chose to write the Scriptures were given vivid imagery to express the fleeting nature of life under the sun---life is a shadow (1 Chronicles 29:15); mist (James 4: 14); wind that passes (Psalm 78:39); grass that withers (1 Peter 1:24); a breath (Psalm 144:4); a sigh (Psalm 90:9); smoke (Psalm 102:3;---just to mention a few. This truth further inspired King David to pray about the use of those short years, the one above perhaps the most prominent. Earlier he had written---
O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how
fleeting I am!
Psalm 39:4, ESV
The prayer requests "So teach us..." and "...make me know..." are indicative of King David's willingness to learn, even when contemplating the mysteries of life and death. Using the more trendy contemporary language we could conclude that David was a life-long learner. His many requests for God to teach him spiritual truth regarding the purpose of life, knowing and doing the will of God, transitioning in the stages of life, and finally, truth about the number of our days are glimpses of his desire to honor God in every life circumstances. Asking to be taught was personal and singular in the second of the references above. In the first instance above, however, the King was asking for the nation. He wanted Israel to be wise about the value and meaning of life, especially when thinking about its brevity. This is without doubt a lesson that would benefit us all!
Who can ignore the difficulties of learning in advanced age? The experts over in the Psychology Department can overwhelm us with the scientific changes we experience in our advanced years. Neurotransmitter systems, synaptic connections, white matter in the brain, and brain mass all shrink in every normal aging process. Many in that "Between 65 and ..." age category experience advanced lowering of these abilities, resulting in early onset dementia or Alzheimer's Disease, more serious obstacles to learning. We even joke about it at times. You know, in senior adulthood we are privileged to meet a lot of wonderful new friends. Yuk. Yuk.
Even more, many of us, of all ages, have "been there, done that", an attitudinal barrier to learning. Or, we recite the urban myth still lingering from our grandparents day--- "you can't teach an old dog new tricks". Meaning in both cases that our personal learning curve is self-imposed by the presumed facts of life. The truth is, many of us just don't want to learn, especially the curricula of exponential times. Asking God to teach us anything new is anathema to our struggling systems. It's hard work keeping up with a fast, complicated world. Sameness fits our lifestyles and learning pretty well, even among those of us in younger age categories.
Unlearning compromises meaningful relationships, and to get more specific in my particular passion, our spiritual and church lives. I can't tell you how many churches I have consulted who are experiencing disconnections from local communities because church leaders won't learn the dynamics of the new thing God is doing around the world. God spoke to Isaiah, his prophet: "Behold I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43: 19, ESV). We'll stick with the old thing, thank you! Instead, many in our generational cohort, at home, at church, and at work, are asking the unwise question--- “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this" (Ecclesiastes 7:10, ESV). We'd prefer things to be the way they were at some memorable or glorious past. That's the thing about David's two prayers addressing the shortness of life. Each focused his attention away from past accomplishments or failures. He wanted his "Between 65 and..." years to matter now.
Praying for God to "teach us..." opens our hearts and minds to the present, you know, right now. The lessons of biblical history, the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection, the New Testament church, and the full counsel of God in Scripture are essential in the dynamics of our spiritual learning and maturity. As they say, if we don't study the past we're sure to repeat it. Even so, we must be guided by what Jesus promised--- "It is written in the Prophets, “And they will all be taught by God" (John 6:45, ESV). If we are to understand the value of human life, our personal purpose and investment in it, we must join King David in asking God to teach us right now.
Even when we're "Between 65 and ...".