“The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head” (Proverbs 20:29).
EACH DAY THAT PASSES LEAVES US ONE DAY OLDER. Life happens to move in one direction only: from younger to older. But is that good or bad? Contrary to the assumptions of our youth-centered culture, I believe that advancing age should not be thought of in totally negative or unwelcome terms. While the glory of young men is their strength, the splendor of old men is their gray head. Doesn’t the word “splendor” suggest something positive?
Most people probably look at old age as an unfortunate leaving behind of youth. But why can’t we change the metaphor? Rather than “leaving behind,” why can’t we see it as “building upon”? If we see the strength, beauty, and joy of youth as a foundation, we can look at age as building an edifice that is far more valuable and impressive than the foundation would be by itself.
Last week, I had the privilege of spending the better part of two days with James Finney in Colorado Springs, Colorado. At ninety-two years of age, James is a wonder. He drove me around the countryside, talked with me about spiritual priorities, suggested books that I was not familiar with, shared insights into the Scriptures that had not occurred to me, and even took me to the gym where he works out every morning. I have known and loved him for many years, but I really love him now, having seen him up close and in action. Truly, here is a man who is reaching forward — not only to heaven but also to his utmost usefulness in this world.
From several important perspectives, the last stage of our sojourn should be considered the prime of life. Yes, the physical and mental disabilities that often arise can alter the level of our activity and take much of the happiness out of life. As we near the end, there are some unique challenges and difficulties to be dealt with. But be that as it may, the years of our greatest maturity should be the culmination of what we have learned and done. Autumn is not the downside of spring — it is the fruition of spring.
“Time converts knowledge into wisdom, energies spent into experience gained. Time leaves us richer for what we have had. And time thoughtfully permits us to use the fire of youth to drive the energies of age. We can be young and old at the same time” (Sidney Greenberg).