In just a few days, I will have a BIG birthday--celebrating seven decades of life. Many people have asked me, "How do you feel about this birthday?" My answer is usually two-part, 1) there is nothing I can do about it, and 2) disbelief. I do not think I ever really imagined myself at seventy. How can this be? I vividly remember when my mom turned this age--and I thought of her as an old woman. I definitely do not visualize myself in the same way! (You may laugh now.)
Many years ago, I asked the Lord to allow me to "grow old gracefully." I have to admit--that was much easier to say when I was younger, than it is to daily live it out. I have come to view the aging process with the image of "shrinking." Life seems to be contracting. Downsizing our home forced the elimination of many treasured items. A limited income restricts our freedom to travel or engage in many of our "normal" activities. The pain, stiffness and other physical issues bring limitations. Opportunities for work or service are often restricted because of the cultural assumption that advanced age means we have nothing to offer or cannot perform. All these realities caused me to wonder, how does one respond with grace when life seems to be characterized by loss?
But, I am not writing a lament for all the losses of this aging process. Years ago, I was confronted with the quote by Victor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, who studied those who physically lived, but emotionally died during the time of internment, and those who experienced the same horrors, but went on to live fruitful lives. He concluded, "When everything else is stripped away, we are left with the last human freedom, the choice to decide how to respond to any given situation. The last human freedom is the ability to choose one's attitude." Yes, responding with grace is a choice. In spite of circumstances, God declares that I can choose to be "reverent, not a gossip, not given to addiction, sensible, kind, and a teacher of love and what is good" (excerpts from Titus 2). In other words, as an aging woman, I can be full of grace that overflows to others.
Many years ago, my husband and I claimed the promise in Psalm 92:12-14 that we would flourish in old age. Verse 14 declares, "They will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green." God does not see the restrictions inherent in the aging process as limiting factors in serving Him. His calling to grow spiritually and to serve others comes with no age restriction or retirement date. He expects us to allow Him to use the many experiences of our lives to be a blessing to others. We are to continue to nurture the soul of our neighbors and our city. None of His commands have an expiration date.
So--what am I doing on the eve of this major milestone? Just what I have been called to do all of my life: grow in love of God; share with others the incredible reality of a life lived as God's beloved child; submit my (aching) body and soul into His care; allow Him to demonstrate his faithfulness in my many years of life to speak hope to others; and to look forward to the ever-so-closer time that I enter into eternity with Him.
It is time to flourish. "Happy Birthday to Me!"