One characteristic flaw of humankind is our tendency to take a lot of things for granted especially regarding the cycles of life. We typically assume that once a child is born, she will grow up sane and strong, attend school and graduate, get a good job and then marry and start her own family, then she’ll succeed in her career, grow old and eventually die at a ripe old age. This repetitive nature of certain events of this life is well documented by The Teacher in the book of Ecclesiastes who laments the utter futility of these cycles. They are all vanities he says.
Reality however has a way of yanking us out of this enshrined orientation of taking things for granted by the many failures and disappointments we encounter as we age. Yet, our grief from these heartbreaks could have probably been rendered more bearable had we be somewhat open-minded about life’s uncertainties.
The late author Herbert Vander Lugt in this short book, The Art of Growing Old, shares his experiences and that of other senior citizens on some of the possible pitfalls of old age and offers sound advice on how to deal with them. He notes an unfortunate pattern among many people especially those in their late forties and early fifties who are often forced to brood over the implications of their personal mortalities only when tragedies strike. He observes that, “the awareness of life’s brevity may come with a jolt when a person finds out he has high blood pressure or other physical problems that are usually associated with aging,” which statements rings too true!
The author observes that, many intentionally avoid discussing and planning for their old age because such inevitably must include debilitation and death, which themes are deemed too morbid and depressing, yet this ought not to be the case especially for the Christian. He asserts that “a Christian who properly faces the reality of departing this life, acknowledging it openly and cheerfully will not get sour on life or develop a fixation on death and dying.” Christians ought to be confident that when they depart this life, they are going to be with their Lord.
Even though death preoccupies the thinking and planning for old age, it’s not all about it. There are many positive benefits to growing old. Freed from the pressure of making a living or raising a family, we can use much of this time for personal growth and spiritual impact. For instance, the author shares the story of a man he personally knew whose joy seemed to abound after retiring because now, he had ample time to embark on evangelism and other missionary works. Apart from this, old age also affords one the quality time to spend with one’s grandchildren(kids always love their grandparents), ample time to volunteer for and support worthy causes, to coach and counsel young ones in their life decisions and so on.
As a relatively young person, I found The Art of Growing Old very helpful as I was opened to certain realities of life in a fresh way by the author’s measured tone in dealing with this topic which inspired in me a much welcomed sober cogitation.
I agree with Herbert Vander Lugt when he says that old age “can be happy and useful if we plan for the adjustments it will demand and utilize its new opportunities to glorify God.” Do give this book a read if you do come across it!