Have you ever thought about age? If you’re like most young people, I assume you try not to think about age, old people, or *gulp* the possibility of becoming one yourself. But don’t you think it is something worthy of our contemplation? In my last post, I discussed death and, though that is a more certain fate than old age and equally as uncomfortable to discuss, I want to talk about the importance of age and the stages we go through as we age.
Often I say to people in a joking manner, “I can’t wait to get old! I can’t wait to complain to my grandkids about how hard my childhood was!” However, though this may be in jest, I think there is some nugget of truth to it. I legitimately long, with eager anticipation, for the day when I can sit on my porch and see my children’s children playing. I cannot wait to have experienced the world with my future wife, and seen the glorious beauty of mountains as they rise into the sky or deserts when the sun comes to rest on the horizon. Don’t get me wrong, I actually want to do these things, but I think there is also a peculiar beauty in having done them as well.
I think there is a peculiar beauty in every age. I’ve never understood those who say, “I hate kids,” or, “I can’t stand being around children.” How could one not enjoy children? It is precisely because they haven’t seen the beauty of children. Please don’t read what I am not typing. I said beauty, not cuteness. I also happen to think children are cute, but it is their beauty that causes me to enjoy being around them.
What do I mean by beauty? I mean a person’s being made in the image of God, shining through in different ways at different ages.
In children, we see the absolute wonder of the world. Older people don’t see butterflies as wonderful, we see them as butterflies. Where we might see leaves and trees, children see fall and forests. The world excites them. And it ought to! Think about all of the things that are happening right now in order for you to be able to read this post. You’re reading it because I typed it and sent it through the internet to you wherever you are! That is remarkable! And that is discounting altogether the bodily structures and functions it takes for you to comprehend this sentence! It also ignores all of the butterflies you are missing while you read. Children don’t miss the butterflies. They see them. And then they ask why. “Why are they called butterflies? Why do they do that? Why are they so pretty?” While this may be an irritating practice, it forces us back to the conclusion “Because God.” It is in these moments when we see the glory of God proclaimed by Creation.
And then it’s over. Childhood is replaced with responsibilities and bills. We no longer have time for staring at butterflies because we have to work to pay for food, the car, the electricity, the water, the rent, the medicine, et al. Wonder is replaced by realization. We come to the conclusion that maybe the world doesn’t care about us and we have to grit our teeth and deal with it. Life catches up to us, but there is beauty here as well. It is in these folks that we see the determination that has built nations, companies, and households. I know that everyone wants that innocence of childhood back, but children cannot make homes. Only grown-ups can. This “grit your teeth and do it” attitude is exactly what is needed to get through hard, depressing, or painful times. Work is a good thing. It is in our nature to work. Be it in the home as a mother, or as a Navy SEAL, work is work and work is good. This is the time when character is determined and shown. And let’s not forget the children you now have! Now, you’re not simply you, you’re either “Mommy” or “Daddy” as well. What greater honor is there than being entrusted by God to raise a human being?
And then you aren’t a young adult anymore. You’ve seen some gray in your hair and are wondering where the time went. You probably wanted to do more before you got “old,” but now it appears it’s too late. You’re taking 3 or 4 different pills a day to keep arthritis at bay, your stomach from churning, and your blood pressure in check. But, there is beauty in this age also. Your children aren’t so small anymore and you’ve gone from “Mommy and Daddy” to “Mom and Dad.” And now, they ask you not why butterflies are so pretty, but how to handle difficult situations. And here’s the best part: you can answer them! You’ve been there. You know what it means to struggle through things. You know how to guide them. You now have wisdom in your older age. You have been given this gift to share with those who are younger. Yours is the beauty of passing on experience.
Eventually, as it gets harder and harder to get out of bed, and you begin to see your hair turn an ever lighter gray, it sinks in. You’re old. It’s too late to do most things. But there is here, I think, the most exquisite beauty of all of the people on Earth, the beauty of understanding.
“I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
You see, I am convinced that children and young people are prone to be romantics and poets—though they don’t really know it—because age has yet to teach them any better. On the other hand, I think that old people are romantics and poets—and they are quite aware—because age has taught them better. It is in old age, when your joints hurt, your back aches, and your stories have been ignored by all but the cashier at your favorite grocery store, that you begin to realize just how breathtakingly gorgeous the world actually is. You see your grandchildren tending to their children. You see technology advance far beyond what you thought possible. Once more wonder fills your eyes and you appreciate all of the things you wish you’d appreciated before.
Though I am quite young, and in a lot of ways naive, I believe that age is a beautiful gift from God that declares to us the character of God. We see His Awesomeness (or His ability to strike awe in those that see Him) in children. We see His dedication and determination in young adulthood. We see His wisdom displayed in the middle-aged. We see His majesty displayed in the old. I implore you, reader, don’t despise your age. Revel in it. Enjoy it. And give glory to the God who created you.
Soli Deo Gloria.