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Grow old along with me! | Worship


Last updated 2/12/2014 at Noon

Mark Smith today, circa 2014.

The jig is up! It’s time for me to come to terms with my own aging process.

I have been writing my worship column for the Beacon for some 20 years now, and the picture of me that has graced this column has never changed.

In other words, to many readers of this column and who may not know me personally, I am perpetually 35 years old.

Nowadays, when folks come to the church I serve looking for Mark Smith, they are surprised to find an old guy with lots of gray hair. I have to admit that it has been a source of amusement for my parishioners and me for some time.

I could have changed my picture a long time ago, of course, but I didn’t want to ruin the joke.

But perhaps there is another reason for my hesitation – I really didn’t want to admit to myself that I was growing older.

I am not alone in this, of course. Few people like the thought of getting older. Even though aging is something we can't avoid and is a very natural process, we take elaborate steps to fight it: We color our hair, we apply facial cream to take away the wrinkles, we spend lots of money on cosmetics and facelifts.

Society caters to the young and beautiful, and we do our best to conform to the popular image. Aging is almost an embarrassment to us – why else do we feel like we have to lie about it?

Someone once asked George Burns whether it bothered him very much to grow old.

Burns replied: "It used to bother me a great deal until I thought about the alternative, which is dying. Since then, it hasn't bothered me a bit."

That's one way to look at it!

It seems to me that we have a choice: We can continue to view our own aging process as a negative, and we can make our lives miserable by worrying about wrinkles, the balding forehead, and the fading memory – or we can begin to accept our own aging as a simple fact of life and a natural process that leads to fulfillment and even joy.

We can grow older in a constant state of fear and panic, and try to fight it tooth and nail, or we can grow older with some courage and grace.

Since there is nothing we can do to stop the aging process (no one has yet discovered the Fountain of Youth), doesn't it make a lot more sense to come to terms with it, accept it, and move into our increasing years with grace and dignity?

Perhaps what is most important is for us to realize that by God’s design, the last of life is meant to be the best. My grandmother used to quote those well know lines from Robert Browning’s "Rabbi ben Ezra”:

“Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in His hand who sayeth, 'A whole I planned." Youth shows but half; trust God; see all, nor be afraid!”

According to the Bible, the last years of life are meant to be the best; they are meant to be a time of fulfillment – a time to enjoy the fruit of one's labors.

Mark Smith then, circa 1992.

Although the Bible is realistic about the problems that come with aging, old age is lifted up as the "crown of life": "Gray hair is a crown of splendor" says Proverbs.

In the Biblical view, as a person advances in years he acquires wisdom, experience, understanding and spiritual depth. These are benefits that far outweigh the physical limitations imposed by aging.

"Much experience is the crown of old men," says Proverbs, "and the fear of God is their glory."

So I have resolved to look at my own aging in a different light: I am getting better every day! And I really do believe the best is yet to be! Courage!


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