Thursday, March 19, 2015

Facing – and Embracing – the Inevitable

I heard somewhere that researchers have discovered a key element for living a long life: Keep having birthday parties. And be sure to be in attendance.

The alternative is to depart from the scene and have other people continue to commemorate your birthday, as we do with George Washington, Elvis and others, even though they’re no longer around to join the celebration.

But the reality is, if you live long enough, aging is inevitable. It’s something to face – and hopefully, to embrace. This should be the case even though our society seems fixated on youth. Every year newer and fresher starlets are trotted out. Many advertisers tend to direct their messages toward teens and 20-somethings. Out with the old and in with the new, as they say.

Jennifer Lawrence, star of the “Hunger Games” trilogy, “American Hustle,” “Silver Linings Playbook” – and it seems about half of the movies being released by Hollywood these days – is the current darling of the younger set in the world of entertainment. She’s 24 and right now, the poster child for America’s youth movement. But for us all, time continues its relentless march and before we know it, Ms. Lawrence will start sporting the occasional wrinkle and find herself headed down the same path as another Jennifer – Aniston – who, believe it or not, lacks just a few years from qualifying for AARP membership!

I think Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw summarized many of our sentiments when he said, “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.”

My aunt and uncle, Barbara and Joe Tamasy, shown
with a relative during a visit to Veszprem, Hungary,
were examples of embracing the aging process. 
Being a young person is filled with its awkward moments, encountering experiences for the first time and figuring out what to do with them. But it’s the same for those of us who are aging. We’ve never been this way before. The spring in our step isn’t the same, we’re not as agile, we can’t jump as high or fast – and dare not do it anyway, for fear of breaking or straining something.

There’s a whole array of products out there we never needed before, but now we examine them with interests – ointments, medications, cushions, sight and hearing aids. Our physicians tell us how well we’re doing “for our age.” As the late Phyllis Diller said, “Maybe it's true that life begins at fifty. But everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out.”

But again, aging shouldn’t be something we face with regret and trepidation. It’s to be embraced. Poet Robert Browning wrote, “Grow old with me! The best is yet to be.” We’ve never been here before, so we don’t know what great adventures still lay ahead.

For one thing, most older people possess a treasure of wisdom they lacked in their earlier years. Wisdom, someone has said, comes from making good decisions. And being able to make good decisions came from making bad decisions – which we all have made in abundance!

Then we have decades of accumulated experiences we can continue to enjoy and benefit from. Author Madeleine L’Engle expressed it this way: “The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been.”

Most of all, the Bible affirms aging should be regarded as a gift, not a consequence of living a long time. Romans 12:2 says we’re to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.” And as a wise friend of mine pointed out, this includes the aging process.

The Scriptures tell us that in one sense, “50 shades of gray” is a desirable state: “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old” (Proverbs 20:29).

And the wisdom acquired through the passage of years can pay rich dividends, as Proverbs 24:3-4 affirms: “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Just as Rome was not built in a day, neither is a full, noble and rewarding life.

So if you, like myself, are wadding through this uncertain stage of life called aging, welcome it with enthusiasm. And if you’re still a young person with no clue what the aging process is like, be patient – you’ll get there soon enough! 

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