First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Growing Old Gracefully
Nature and Boy Scout Camp go together. I spent a few days with the trees and the bugs, the beautiful lake and the golden sunsets, songs in the dining hall and skunks under the tent platforms. It was like going back in time to younger days when I could be filthy dirty from head to toe and no one would care. I volunteer when I can as a chaperone with our local scout troop. And I enjoy living under the trees with the boys – relaxing this 40 year old body – getting in touch with nature and experiencing the peace of the natural world.
Nature is beautiful but nature can also be cruel. We have been blessed with these wonderful bodies, given great natural abilities, allowed to develop and hone our skills. Then we slowly age. At one time I could run and jump like Michael Jordan – sort of. Now, I’m closer to Porky Pig. I don’t know why it works this way. If it were my choice I should be able to do the things I used to do when I was younger. I would want everything to stay the same – always. But unfortunately, this is not to be. For me, getting in touch with nature at Boy Scout Camp also meant getting in touch with aging.
My scouts entered an Ultimate Frisbee tournament. It is kind of a cross between football and soccer. I played this game a lot when I was younger, so I volunteered to help the boys. I was their coach – I organized the teams and gave them basic strategy. Then at one point I entered the game, just to see if I could still play.
Now I had just turned 40 and I am in excellent condition. I exercise and I haven’t gained any weight since college. So I figured I could still run with these boys and teach them a thing or two about this sport. So I entered the game and everything was going well. I felt good, I felt strong, and I was looking sharp. I felt as if nothing had changed. I felt young again, and I was stomping on those little pip squeaks. Then, as we were nearing the goal we lost possession and the boys turned and ran in the other direction. Something happened to me that had never happened before. The game passed me by. These young people stopped on a dime, turned, and left me eating dust. It was at that moment that I realized I’ve lost my former speed and quickness. I no longer have the explosive first step that I formerly used to get open and keep up with the action. I now know how Michael Jordan feels – I used to be able to play this game.
These young people may have an advantage over me in the physical arena, but I still have a lot going for me. I have something that only time and experience can give, I have wisdom. I have learned a great many things over the years, things that only come through the difficult process of trial and error. And as the experiences have accumulated I have learned many hard and valuable lessons. I have become a stronger and wiser person as a result of this. There is a wonderful story in the Bible that I believe captures this concept of people growing wiser with age. It is the book of Ruth and it is only four chapters long, and it can be read in one relaxing evening.
In the book of Ruth Naomi uses the wisdom that came with age to fulfill God’s plans for her, Ruth and all of the people of Israel. The wisdom that Naomi uses does not only come from experience, it also comes from God. The Bible frequently points to God as the source of wisdom. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline (Prov 1:7). The book of Proverbs talks about wisdom being a gift from God to those who seek after it. In fact it says that true wisdom comes only from God. And what I mean by true wisdom is that important ability to know which decision is right in God’s eyes. So we could say that Naomi’s wise choices came from God. And that everyone who seeks after righteousness – everyone who wants to do what is right in God’s eyes – will receive the wisdom to do God’s will.
I may be slower but I’m wiser, and my wife tells me I’m more handsome (HA!). I may be older but I have grown spiritually. I may be slowly declining physically but I am also slowly becoming closer to God. I have been given so much by the years, none of which I would ever give back. So let the aches and pains come, let the game pass me and Michael Jordan by. I look forward to growing with God in wisdom and in age. I am ready for everything that God has to give.
(I wrote this ten years ago, and I feel that it has aged well over time.)
Pastor Bill Whitehead