This spring I was giving consideration to taking on a pastoral leadership role in a church. As I met with the search committee I was asked an odd question, valid to the inquirer but strange to me. The question related to my age and whether I thought I could do this with any length of years. It was strange to me because I don’t see myself as old. After all I am only 62. Odd that effectiveness seems for some to have a shelf life, that somehow when you arrive at a given age your days of adding value are over. Time to roll out the rocking chair or crawl up beside the old hound dog for all that awaits is “gloom, agony and despair”.
Now I know some people who are younger than I am whom I would consider old. Maybe old not so much in years as a mindset that they have embraced. Their body aches (who doesn’t have some pain), their skill sets are outdated and their self-talk is one of defeatism or negativity. Their endurance often seems only to be for the day (if I can just make it to bedtime).
When do we ever become too old; really when do we allow ourselves to be defined by age?
There is a quote by Thoreau that I often think about. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Lives that are driven by the tyrannies of expectations, of self and others. Lives, full of dreams and deep longings, that have become too old before their time. The grave silences too many voices with its cold, icy grip.
Yet I find myself often awakened in the early morning by the songs of the birds as they sing forth in their own creative harmony,
“Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for the springing fresh from the world”.
I have a brother who will turn 65 next week. When he was five he contracted meningitis that left him mentally impaired and needing institutional care. We would often say to him, “Fred, you’re getting old”. His quick retort was always, “Not too old”.
When are we too old? For me this can never be defined by age. It is when I no longer have a song to be sung or a ballad to be written. It is when I settle for the trappings of the barnyard and forget that I am made to soar with the eagles. It is when I awaken the dawn with a groan or simply close the window because “of the noise outside”.
What is your song that has yet to sung? What is your ballad that has yet to be written?
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s re-creation of the new day.