In a society that glorifies youth, anyone over 30 can be considered a gone-by. That is not at all a biblical way of looking at the life-process of a believer. God has special, highly favored, uses for those over-50’s! There is a maturity that only walking with God for decades can produce. Jesus did not enter public ministry until age 30. He had to follow the natural order of life and learning before His time to minister came. Abraham, the father of our faith, was not called until he was 70 years old!
By its very definition, the leaders of the church are called “elders”
They have reached a certain age and are recognized for their wisdom,maturity and strong walk with God. Jesus tells us that people can start out well, but that they can become like seed scattered in thorny soil–they start out well but over the long run they are choked out and overtaken by the troubles of life. Spiritual elders (and I do not mean just church leaders), on the other hand, have a positive track record with God.
We need to remember that what we consider the end of life is but a beginning to eternal life. So we are not getting older and then passing away but we are growing more mature and entering into the place where we actually know a little bit about God. In a sense, the oldest you could get on earth is still but a drop in the bucket of how long you will be alive (eternally!) …so please try to let that inform your perspective of aging and what it means.
Samuel Whitfield said, “One of the great mistakes we make is trying to fulfill our entire purpose in this age. When we have that perspective, unmet expectations crush us. In reality, the primary purpose of this age is to form and shape us to be a suitable companion for Jesus in the age to come.” So we are really just beginning our journey but yet we have lived long enough to know the frailties of life and of human nature. What we have to offer is a humble sense that our own strength can not carry us across the length of a life, but that we can learn to abide in and lean on God because He is ALWAYS faithful . The young rely on themselves, true “elders” rely on God.
Knowing where you end and where God begins brings a stability to you and to your environment.
One of the characteristics of people in the earlier part of life is that trouble tosses them around more severely than it does those who have learned to walk with God through many ups and downs. Your presence in the life of your children and grandchildren can bring a deep sense of stability to them. They see that you are still there and have weathered the storms with some wear but with grace and wisdom. They sense that. It brings comfort to them. All of us want to feel that someone older and wiser is leading us. Our Heavenly Father specializes in that!
Paul writes, “For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have you not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have become your father through the gospel. (1 Cor 4:15). Paul recognizes that many people can teach you things about Jesus, but not that many can protect, watch over, and make you feel the safety that a Father’s love gives. We get that sense of how to father (and mother) from having been fathered by God throughout our lives. We know that people don’t just need truth, they need to feel our compassion, they need someone to bind up the scrapes, someone to cry with and run to when the way seems lost and hopeless. They need a strong figure that they can watch when it feels like they are drowning: one that stands head and shoulders above the storm and are themselves, watching and being Fathered by God. They need someone whose gives them the reassurance of a loving gaze when they feel lost or incapable. These love subtleties we simply do not have when we are younger. Do you remember Radar O’Reilly, the company clerk from MASH? He knew exactly what was needed by some kind of “intuitive” radar. That kind of radar takes awhile to grow in us.
So you can see how rare and how precious being a spiritual father and mother is. This does not come in our youth–it blossoms, if it is going to blossom, in later decades. You can be an outstanding example, a brother, a sister, but you can not be a father or mother in the faith until at least a few grey hairs show!
So start to see that the “race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,” but that the prize goes to the one who loves the most and can watch over the flock of God in such a way thatothers feel the Father’s love flowing through your bespectacled eyes, and your wrinkled hands.
As you get older, you are, or can be, getting more useful to God!
Rose-Marie Slosek is a Board Member of Women of the Word. She also blogs at Pen of the Wayfarer and is a spiritual director. She loves to travel to other nations spreading the Gospel, and is an avid photographer of nature. Rose-Marie also rescues dogs and gives them a loving home.
Women of the Word is an inter-generational ministry dedicated to helping women grow as disciples of Jesus by applying God’s Word through the power of the Holy Spirit. WOW holds conferences, retreats, Bible seminars and trips to Israel.