draw1

A few weeks ago my eyes made a decision without consulting me. They decided that they would no longer be satisfied with large print Bibles. From now on they would only read giant print Bibles. I had no say in this decision. I have now purchased a number of giant print Bibles.

Last week I spoke at an undergrad Christian fellowship. Haven’t done this for a while. I usually speak to young adults and older. This fellowship had a good practice. At the end of the meeting someone would pray for the speaker. I can’t remember the exact words. Essentially the brother who prayed for me prayed that the Lord would strengthen my old body. I remember the “old body” part clearly. First time anyone referred to my body as old, at least in public. The brother also prayed that I would have the vitality of youth. I thought I was my usual vital self when I spoke. Maybe it was a pre-emptive prayer. I hope so.

I wasn’t upset by the prayer. Surprised maybe, and amused. I thought back on when I was in my early 20s. A man of 60 would have looked old to me. (I turned 60 early this year.) I am getting older. I am long overdue for hearing aids. My energy levels are dropping. Once I could do three camps back to back. Now I need three weeks to recover from a camp. The evidence is piling up. The clock is ticking.

This Sunday I will be speaking on “Emotions and Relations: Attending to our Social-Emotional Well Being”. It is part of a series for those 50 and above called Finishing Well offered by The Bible Church. I am told that the response to the series has been enthusiastic. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. With better health care more of us will be living longer. The church is long overdue to think through what biblical and practical ministries they can and should offer to those in their “third-third of life”, those 60 and older.

I am no expert on this topic. But I am learning. I have to. And I will share whatever reflections I have at this part of my journey.

I have always been encouraged by the example of Caleb as he contemplated finally entering the Promised Land. At age 85 he said:

Now then, just as the Lord promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said. (Joshua 14:10-12 NIV).

Two things strike me about Caleb’s speech — his passion for the Lord and his eagerness for new challenges.

I am not sure I can say that my body is as strong as it was when I was 40. It some ways it is not. Remember my eyes’ independent decision? But passion for the Lord can be cultivated. Indeed living longer gives one a much bigger canvas from which to view God’s goodness. Indeed, a new friend reminded me recently that drawing closer to God means drawing closer to the light and getting greater clarity of the darkness in one’s life — with the growing realisation of how gracious God has really been. A growing realisation of God’s grace should fuel an increasing passion for Him.

And yes, as we move on in years we should take on new challenges to keep our minds fresh. I met a classmate recently who told me that he had taken up the saxophone last year. He seems to be having a great time with his new interest. My own small attempt at something new has been my clumsy attempts at writing haikus. I am reading up on this genre of Japanese poetry. Of course I can only write in English but it is a totally new genre for me. A new challenge.

I am not sure what the future will bring. I knew a man who at 92 was still at the top of his game, able to drive, contributing significantly to the cause of Christ. My beloved mother in her late 80s has dementia and is no longer engaged with much of life. How will my story end? Only the Author of my life knows. The adventure continues. I only know the final chapter will be incredible.

the passing of time
sigh….so much we leave behind
but nearer to Him

 Image from Help! I’m Growing Old by Chuah Tong-Ik