“Growing old is inevitable. Growing up is optional.”
I saw it on a t-shirt first. It’s been quoted, requoted, rearranged, adapted, and tweaked, but at the end of the day the concept is the same: we acknowledge an aging body is part of life, but an aging attitude is entirely up to us.
At forty, there are things my body can’t do as well. I’ve remarked about my need for sleep, and between one surgery on each knee (long stories…), even yard work on my knees can have me limping the next day. Growing older is not fun.
It’s easy when you’re young to live like you’re going to live forever because you feel indestructible. Healthcare even labels young adults that way! But we’ve all been there and one day we’ll be on the other side too.
What are we to do with this encroachment of old age in our lives? The t-shirt advises to defy it: “Growing up is optional”. Maybe there’s more truth to that than we might think.
Our Teacher in Ecclesiastes 12:1-5 states this:
1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”— 2 before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; 3 when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; 4 when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when people rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; 5 when people are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred. Then people go to their eternal home and mourners go about the streets.
Ecclesiastes 12:1-5, NIV
“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…”. Powerful words. The New Living Translation translates the first part of verse 1 (from Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament) as “Don’t let the excitement of youth cause you to forget your Creator.”
When we’re indestructible, it’s easy to forget we need our Creator. King Solomon’s thrust throughout Ecclesiastes is testing what life is like without God. It’s one of the reasons Ecclesiastes can be so frustrating to read.
Solomon is challenging us to live lives wrapped up in the only One able to give our aging meaning: the Creator. Just like we must care for our bodies and establish healthy patterns of eating and exercise while we’re young, so also we must care for our spiritual bodies by establishing healthy patterns of worship with the Lord.
It’s too easy to squander our vitality on that which does not matter. Then when we’re older, we possess nothing but the bitterness of hating our present and idolizing our past. But when we set a pattern of healthy spiritual growth and self-care, our old age greets us with the reminder that not only are we closer to home, but our lives are still of significance.
Now, THAT is how I want to grow old! How about you?