GROWING OLD BEAUTIFULLY
P. Samuel Manoharam
I am on the threshold of completing my SEVENTY- SEVEN God-Gifted years. This is a very important milestone in my Life's Journey, to thank and praise CHRIST JESUS, who is my Lord and my God. I am grateful for His loving care, His immense grace and His unimaginable faithfulness towards me, in most devastating and bewildering situations.
While I was contemplating on it, I sensed an urge to testify about what God has been doing to me throughout my life. It was a strong urge to present my testimony, to make known to others, particularly to my co-believers, who are in the aging process.
I hope you will be encouraged to spend the twilight years, hopefully and cheerfully. May this serve as a channel of blessing to you in your old age.
The title may sound somewhat paradoxical, for the reason that old age is not generally associated with beauty. But, this Message, I hope, will convince you that Old Age or Aging Process is not only to be lived beautifully, but also cheerfully and graciously. Old age should never be despised as the worst stage of life. My experience delightfully proves this. We cannot avoid old age and aging process; it is beyond our control. This is ordained by God. But what is avoidable and preventable is an attitude of bitterness and resentful frame of mind.
Real Beauty Is Not Physical
Why should anyone worry about old age, which mostly affects our physical bodies? In fact, growing old can mean growing in the grace of God and growing spiritually, which is more vital. It is said: The strength and beauty of youth is physical. The strength and beauty of old age is spiritual. The Holy Bible clearly says: "THE BEAUTY OF OLD MEN IS THE GREY HEAD. One is nourishment of one's physical body, which is for the temporary world. The other is nourishment of one's Soul and Spirit, which is for the permanent eternal world.
Time may wrinkle the skin, due to several hardships faced and sacrifices made in our life, but worry, fear, anxiety, bitterness and loss of our precious ideals will wrinkle our soul, which is very dangerous. So, whenever I look into the mirror and see my hair getting grey, I do not feel unhappy. We need not worry about wrinkles on our faces. With more wrinkles and less hair on our head, if we can let go the anxiety about our appearance and health which are slipping away, the painful dependence on our self-image will yield to joyful dependence on God. This will make us spiritual people in our closing years. The beauty is no longer skin-deep, but the time-honoured loveliness of a well-lived life.
Painful Is Gainful
This testimony highlights how God takes life's most devastating tragedies and turns them into instruments of His wonderful grace. It also speaks about man's desperate dependence on God, experiencing HIS VERY BEST in life's tough situations. It further asserts how through such painful situations, our inward character is refined and purified, ultimately proving that PAINFUL becomes GAINFUL and that our highest good comes from our deepest suffering. Someone said: "A Christian character, like a GEM, is formed by pressure of hard circumstances and polished by friction of troublesome afflictions.
God's unbelievable help and guidance were with me through thick and thin, incredibly bailing me out of all predicaments and made me what I am today. In the thick of life's battles, the Lord sustained and under-girded me marvellously and mysteriously in my secular life. When I am in my ripe old age at SEVENTY-SEVEN, heading, God willing, towards EIGHTY, the Lord is enabling me to taste the beauty of old age, as well as the Heavenly Blessings which one can enjoy in the closing years of his life. The Lord is revealing clearly that THE BEST IS YET TO BE and inspiring me to look forward with hope, optimism and courage. The fact that I am able to pen this write-up, as well as those write-ups penned earlier, at my age, is indicative of the productive way in which God can still use us till the end of our lives.
Need For God
I believe the secret of this glorious stage of life is nothing but growing old beautifully with God, as one's trusted companion in life, cultivating one's daily walk with Him. This is the spiritual culture which needs to be infused in us. God's presence in man's life makes all the difference, because God's Presence is God's Power and Strength, manifesting in several ways making us spiritually resourceful to face and triumph over many impediments. The Bible says: "THE JOY OF THE LORD IS YOUR STRENGTH."
It is said: When God goes out of our life, our life's goal goes, our life's meaning and purpose goes, then our life's value itself goes. Man becomes empty, frustrated and hopeless. With God, there is endless HOPE. Without God, there is hopeless END. My very life profoundly affirms this conclusion. So, growing old beautifully with God is possible undoubtedly. He who has faith in God, has an inward reservoir of courage, hope, confidence and calmness, with assurance that all will come out well finally.
God has ordained old age as a golden opportunity for us to grow spiritually for deep happiness. The Bible says : "A GREY HEAD IS A CROWN OF GLORY, if it is in the way of righteousness." Joseph Campbell said: "As a white candle in a holy place, so is the beauty of an aged face. This means that even in old age, with wrinkles all over our physical body, we can still bear fruit, filled with God-given wisdom. This applies to those who gladly served the Lord all their lives and are still bearing fruit in old age. I am personally experiencing this truth at this stage of my life. I really do not know how I can sufficiently thank God for the wonderful privilege given to me, for being part of His divine purposes in this earthly world. I am grateful to God for the special joy of representing His cause to the people to know Him and to follow Him, through the Personal Evangelistic Ministry, which He entrusted to me in order to make my humble contribution to His KINGDOM on earth.
Abraham Lincoln, said: "In the end, it is not the years in your life that count. It is the life in your years. So, what really counts is the kind of life one lives in this world i.e., a God-Pleasing and well-lived life, before leaving for eternity. Great man of God, St. Augustine said: "What I am is God's Gift to me What I become is my Gift to God."
Becoming as Gift to God is possible only when we grow spiritually. For this, we need to have Christ's own DIVINE LIFE in our INNER BEING and His DIVINE PRESENCE with us all the time, to reflect His righteousness and holiness through spiritual growth. Albert Einstein, said: "Try not to become a man of success, but rather to become a man of value." We can become men of true value only through godliness, which only comes through spiritual discipline.
Basic Concepts About Old Age
A thought or an idea becomes LIGHT to those who receive it. It is said: "The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts." This shows how important it is for us to know and to understand the vital concepts concerning our very life to guide us properly.
I am included in that tribe of silver-haired elders, knowing a good deal about the problems of aging and the aged. Further, life has brought me into intimate contact with several aged and aging people during the past seventy-seven years. This gave me good insight into the joys and disabilities of the aged, generally.
- Aging is a slow biological change in ourselves. Aging is not the same as being old. Aging is a process. Being old is a state of mind. We age minute by minute. It is gradual. God has lovingly planned the old age. It is therefore good for us to accept this with philosophical realism.
- There are three kinds of ages of man. CHRONOLOGICAL age, which is measurement of age by time standards. PHYSIOLOGICAL AGE, which is reflected in one's vital functions and physical conditions. PSYCHOLOGICAL AGE, which is estimated by the way one feels and reacts.
- There are two kinds of age-Age of Body and Age of Mind. The age of body depends on the vital organs of the body. Age of mind depends on how one controls his mind. One can keep his mind young by keeping it active and by cultivating cheerful spirit. If we let the mind grow old, the body will grow old also.
- In spite of old age, we should keep growing spiritually. Inward growth is still possible, though there is decay in physical body. Man's true growth is mental and spiritual. One can grow intellectually and spiritually and be useful to the end, through learning and experience. I am personally tasting this wonderful truth.
- Faith in God brings many spiritual resources available to all believers, enabling them to rise above the adverse factors, while facing old age.
- Old age is inevitable. It is wisdom for us to accept this prospect with realism and optimism. For this, it is good to have proper mind-set that will help us get the best out of aging, which will not allow us to become pessimistic. A thankful and cheerful outlook on life can make all the difference between enjoyment and misery. This will help us to spend the aging years as cheerfully as possible.
- There can be a rare beauty manifested in the life of an aging Christian who has walked with God throughout his life. Old age is an important and meaningful stage in God's perfect WILL. Those believers who accept old age as the WILL of God, enjoy mental peace and joyfulness in their lives with positive outlook.
- There are some who have wrong notions or myths about old age that their closing years will inevitably be less enjoyable with physical illness and weakness, and there will be mental decline, misery and helplessness. My experience confirms that there is no grain of truth in such notions. One can enjoy old age and be cheerful even in adversities and sufferings, with SUPERNATURAL POWER of GOD, available to those who depend upon Him. God's Power will enable them to transcend inevitable handicaps and frustrations of old age.
- The transition from middle age to old age is one of the most testing periods of life. Those very tests can offer opportunities to develop Christian character. God is using old age as a crucible for testing of our faith in God, so that through dark and hard circumstances of life, our faith can rise to greater heights. This has happened to me personally. I have also experienced that old age provides excellent opportunities to grow closer to God, through regular Scripture reading, Prayer life, Meditation, Witnessing etc., enabling us to prepare for Heaven.
- For a serious-minded Christian, the closing years are very important. He can make use of them for redirecting his life in new worthwhile channels of interest, which he missed during his earlier years. These are: intellectual, spiritual activities, and social service among the poorer and neglected segments of society. Leisure in old age affords a much longer time to devote to these God-pleasing activities. Leisure is not given just for aimless time-killing. We have to employ it profitably and beneficially for the well-being of others, so that Christ's love and His life can shine through us to many distressed souls.
God's Plan For Old Age
The important question for all of us is: Are we really seeking God's plan for our old age, or are we merely drifting along with no definite aim or goal? Many of us might not have thought about this. We should turn our eyes upward towards our Lord, asking Him to make use of us, in order to spend the remainder of our lives profitably for His glory. No one can know what God can do for us, until we put ourselves entirely into His Divine Hands.
When we know how precious our old age is, can there be any reason for us not to look forward with joyous expectancy and optimism in old age? There is certainly no reason why our closing years should not be beautiful and graceful. The secret is that growing old is a blessing in many ways, when we are growing closer to God, by adopting spiritual culture on a daily basis.
For me, old age is really beautiful and glorious, as I am trying to grow old with Lord JESUS. It is a great blessing to become aged, gathering as much wisdom and knowledge as possible, to be of help to others at the tail end of my life.
A spark of encouragement or exhortation can kindle warmth in the heart of a person. There is POWER IN WORDS. It can build up people to make them strong and useful, in all situations and at all times.
As the sun is setting on my life, may its golden rays reveal godly qualities, and may my Christian faith and Christ's love be reflected in me, which I have sincerely laboured hard to possess in my life, to enable me to experience JOY, PEACE and SATISFACTION when I am in the dusk of my life. THIS IS MY PRAYER.
If this helps to exhort and stimulate those who are in old age, to live their autumn years of life with as much cheerfulness and joyfulness as possible, it will have fulfilled its purpose. As for me, I am really enjoying my best years, by adopting the aforesaid guidelines.