I admit that I am getting older, there is no point in denying it is there? My body takes longer to recover after two hours of tennis; I cannot stay up late at night and still function well the next day; it takes a little more care to get down on the floor and even more energy to get up. But at age 58 (soon to be 59), I am far from being old! But being in a home church with two-thirds of the group under the age of 30 and working in teams in our mission in which I find myself to be the elder of the group, the unmistakeable fact is–I am aging. But, am I growing in wisdom as I age? Now that is a better question. I remember sharing with a couple of the young men in our group this year about some of the fears I have and they seemed shocked that at my advanced age, I still struggled with such fears (fear of failure being one of them I am sure but I can’t quite remember). I do enjoy our home church since it is multi-generational with about half of the group being college students, a quarter being twenty to thirty-something grads/young professionals and the last quarter being on the mature side with most of us being over 50–the eldest over 80. We learn from one another how to gain wisdom from life’s experiences.
In the most recent version of Conversations Journal (my favorite of all the journals I read), the topic is Wisdom and Aging. Tara Owens has the opening article and I was struck by something she said today,
Growing in wisdom is more often than not a product of learning to walk well through adversity, something aging brings us in abundance. In order to age well, we must learn to appreciate those things that we might not otherwise choose, and come to see the blessings and love of God in the midst of even the most bitter circumstances. We must learn to number our days well, to live like we’re dying, in order to embrace all of life as it is now–the sweet and the savory, the bitter and the spice.” The Blessing of the Bitter by Tara M. Owens Conversations Journal 12.1
My question for you all, myself included, “what have you learned to appreciate in your later years that you once did not?”
Following the death of one of the monks, Merton reflects on aging and memories of his youth. From A Year with Thomas Merton
If I were wiser, I would not mind, but I am not so sure I am wiser. I have been through more, I have endured a lot of things, perhaps fruitlessly. I do not entirely think that–but it is possible. What shakes me is that–I wish I were that rugby player, vain, vigorous, etc., and could start over again! And yet how absurd. What would I ever do?
Seems like I had a conversation about this earlier in the week. People sometimes assume a level of expertise or maturity or wisdom of us when we get older that may not be necessarily true. Lord, let me embrace both who I am and who I am not and be content with that.
Here is a summary of what I have so far–comments or additions
Challenges of ministry in our mid-life years?
- Limited influence
- Financial concerns
- Fear of failure
- Problem of Promotion
- Human development
- Longing for Roots
- Doing versus Being
- Will of God
- Unresolved conflicts
Ministry in the mid-life years
I am giving a seminar on Wed on the above topic. My objective for the attendees: “Help you identify and process your fears about ministry during your mid-life years and design at least three action steps to help you enjoy the blessings of ministry in your mid-life years.”
My main points
1. Challenges of ministry in the mid-life years
2. God and about ministry in the mid-life years
3. Blessings of ministry in the mid-life years
4. What to do to enjoy the blessings of ministry in the mid-life years
If any readers (especially those from the mid-life years and beyond) have ideas in any of these areas, please encourage me and others with your wisdom. Hope to make posts on each of these topics after Wednesday.
Thomas Merton wrote in May 1965 the following:
“When you are beginning to get old, and I am beginning to be old, for I am fifty, both times and places no longer take on the same meaning. Do I have a “day”? Do I spend my “day” in a “place”?
I don’t know where Merton was going with this but I wondered about this idea of having a day or spending a day? Do I think of a day as something to be used for my pleasure, as I see fit? Is the place I spend that day a place of my own choosing or is that another illusion that I have spent a day and in a place? I turned 53 this week, am I beginning to get old? Then, I better start thinking more about my days and places–being present in each moment, wherever God brings me.
Merton’s quote was in A Year with Merton edited by Jonathan Montaldo, May 3