Sep 1, 2017

On Joyfully Aging

By Rebekah Theilen

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6

Everyone is getting older these days. Fun fact: You’re two seconds older now than you were three seconds ago when you first began reading this paragraph. Twenty years ago I was just starting high school, and with the exception of my beloved parents, people in midlife didn’t even exist. Ten years ago I was nursing my daughter in the midnight hours, passing the time with the thirty-minute infomercials. Cindy Crawford had bottled up the secret of Meaningful Beauty, her anti-aging skin care products. Me and the baby yawned ourselves to sleep while women sat around discussing fine lines and wrinkles. I hadn’t the brain-foggiest clue what they were talking about. I knew wrinkles were something old people had, but I had no idea what fine lines were.

Now I know, and interestingly enough, you don’t even have to be old to have wrinkles. I’m not sure when it happened--slowly over the past twenty years I suppose--there’s no need to deeply look into the matter. The fine lines and wrinkles are here to stay, there’ll be more to come, and no rare melon extract out of the jungles of France is ever going to change that. I don’t mean to sound cynical.  It’s making me giggle just thinking about it, how there was a time when I yawned and shrugged at Cindy Crawford’s wrinkle testimonies. I kinda wish I would’ve listened. . . .

I’ve been trying to lighten up a little.  Light-hearted humor isn’t something I do.  Honesty seems to come a whole lot easier, but thank the Lord, not as easy as it used to be. If I’m being honest, I’d tell you that over the years the physical battles have bothered me, more than I thought they would. But something else bothers me more. Maybe you’ve noticed it too in yourself, though you wouldn’t be able to see it, at least not at first. There’s a darkness that wants to take over the soul. The older I get, the longer I live, the more my heart starts to get hard and grow cold.

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be on my mouth” (Psalm 34:1).  What an incredible way to live. It reminds of the story of a lame man from birth. Peter and John were on their way to the temple.  As they were entering into the house of prayer, the lame man from birth asked the two men for money.  Peter looked deep into the eyes of the beggar, as did John.  “Look at us!” Peter shouted.  The beggar looked up, fully expecting to receive what he asked for.  Little did the beggar realize.  “Silver and gold have I none,” Peter says, “but what I have, I will give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk.”  Peter didn’t just speak the words.  He reached down to take the man’s hand, to help the man up, and immediately the lame man’s ankles were strengthened. And as only the grace of God would have it--out of the temple gate called Beautiful--he went walking and leaping and praising God.  

“Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed” (Psalm 34:5)  Life would never be the same for the lame man again. The Bible doesn’t tell us, so we can only imagine the rest of the story. His dark night of the soul was over, and for the rest of his life, the lame man would remember Jesus.  His healing was the personal equivalent of a world wide Gwangbokjeol.  Don’t even ask me how to pronounce it.  All I know is that Gwangbokjeol is a Korean word that means “the day the light returned.” It’s impossible to stand on our own two feet. It was a mistake for me to blame God for my problems, to believe I could muster up the strength to create a life for myself without sadness, darkness, bitterness, and evil.  Reality didn’t apply to me, except it did.  Reality catches up with everyone at some point, but thanks be to God, so does the Lord.  He remembers His children. He quiets our hearts.  He grants us faith.       

It’s no small comedy this culture of death seeks to extinguish the old and the new--the Wisdom and the Joy.  The fullness of God is in the details, stretching across the span of life’s spectrum. Joy comes in the hunger of early rising sons, and it comes in the blue eyes of beautiful infant daughters. Wisdom comes in the musings of elderly friends, who can still see the humor of life's little moments, without the fear of life's coming tears.  Hope comes in the form of God Himself.

The Incarnation of Jesus is proof that God cares. God knows what we need when we need it. When we’re low, what we need is to lighten up, to be made light, and light we are. We have forgiveness for our wrongs and someone to walk us through the heavy times of earthly sorrow, unanswered questions, and All The Things we don’t know how to talk about. We have help with that too, we always do, as God simply promises to make all things beautiful in His time.

Now is the time to live and rejoice.  Richard Bimler, in his book Joyfully Aging: A Christian’s Guide, writes “We can laugh with others because we know that we live as Easter people, and Alleluia is our song.” Can you hear it?  “Alleluia, sing to Jesus, His the scepter, His the throne.” Without Christ, the darkness, the sorrows, our often painful, fleeting lives would only testify to a slow and steady, inevitable demise. But Jesus is here, and Christ is come, and our lives now tell an entirely different story. The New and the Old come together to put it this way: “Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day,” for “out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth.” The longer we live, together we sing, as Christ is filling our hearts with more and more of His hope, more and more of His glory of Peace, Love, and Joy, compelling us forward to tell it like it is. We talk about death and we sing about life.

Don’t harden your heart.  Forgive others as you in Christ have been forgiven. Leave your grievance at the doorstep and go and be reconciled to your friend or your brother.  And that ache you feel as you remember your loved ones, as parents age, as kids grow up, as friends move away, and the time goes on? The ache is your reward. It’s your heart growing bigger and stronger, deeper and wider, more experienced and more compassionate. Your heart might have been the visitor of one too many cemeteries. The left side might be lined with impenetrable stitches, where God was forced to amputate the idols that would only lead to death. It might be permanently scarred by unforgettable suffering, when the cross and crown of thorns kept you tethered to the time when you were crucified with Christ. Your heart might wear a cast that’s signed by every soul you ever loved, but by golly, by God, it’s a heart that still beats.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter
and our tongue with joyful shouting
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
We are glad. Psalm 126:2-3


Rebekah spends her days living life alongside her husband and children. She enjoys reading, homeschooling, and every once in a great while, chasing after the wind.   

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