Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
Do not forsake me when my strength fails.
Mark observes, “…because we live in a society that adores youthfulness, older folk can, in the words of Psalm 71:9, be “set aside.” A friend of mine in the entertainment business says that, when it comes to writing television comedies, you’re over the hill and irrelevant if you’re over 35. How terrible to be ignored and dismissed just because of a few grey hairs!” But he goes on to point out, “The good news is that God does indeed continue to love us, value us, and use us as we age. In fact, often the wisdom that comes from decades of faithfulness contributes more to the kingdom than the zeal of youth.” Mark ends the devotion with that good news, but I could not help but reflect on the juxtaposition of his two statements I have quoted and how they illustrate one of the greater divides between our society and God’s Kingdom.
Our society values young and new, God’s Kingdom values old and wise.
Certainly our society never achieved the status of being well aligned with God’s desires, but I think it is fair to say it used to be more in line than it is now. I cannot help but think that such change is rooted to a great extent in a shift from honoring age and wisdom to serving youth and energy. What factors contributed to this shift? How did it happen?
Certainly stepping away from Judeo-Christian values contributed. But who stepped away and when? The country did not wake up one day and decide to forget faith. It has been a rapid, but still progressive shift over a few generations. It seems like it happened because successive generations failed to develop the values in the next generation.
See, here’s the thing about honoring age and wisdom – the honor has to be earned. Earning such honor comes in two important ways. First, we have to engage with younger generations. That’s just hard work. It requires that we older folk expend our rapidly decreasing energy. It is even more difficult now than it used to be as younger generations really no longer are interested in what we have to offer. But more importantly, our lives have to demonstrate the good that clinging to those values and to faith can produce, which by the way, will make younger generations interested in what we have to offer.
I think it a mistake for those of us in our more advanced years to blame “youth” for our societies ills. We dropped the ball somewhere, and that is why we seem to be “set aside.” I understand the psalmists lament and prayer – I share it. But I know that with God’s help I do not have to be set aside. I know that despite decades of walking with God, I have so much more to learn, so much more sin to overcome. Yes, I have much less energy than I did 30 years ago, but I can never let my zeal to be God’s man wane.
I recently shared dinner with a man I have known since the late 1960’s when we were both boys. My friend now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. While he and I are but months apart in chronological age, the disease makes him appear and move as if much older. (Praise God for the medical miracles that allow him to still move at all) And yet as I write this he is in Lebanon and Syria doing Christian mission work – not sitting behind his desk writing checks, but in Syria (you know Syria – bombing, chemical attacks, etc.) aiding those doing God’s work on the very front lines. I cannot help but be in awe of his zeal for God’s work.
I pray for myself and for all of us that are reaching “our golden years” that we can have but a portion of the zeal that my friend exhibits. And that we take that zeal and we engage with those younger than us. If we allow God to answer that prayer in our lives, things will change.