The Gift of Years – a repost on a Theology of Aging

February 7, 2011 — Leave a comment

Our  Matthew series just concluded a mini-series on “Following Jesus through all the Stations of Life”  including “A Theology of Aging.”  I’ll post the sermon link here.  I also referenced Joan Chittister’s wonderful book, The Gift of Years.  I love her statement: “The gift of…years is not merely being alive; it is the gift of becoming more fully alive than ever.” One comment I received is worth passing on:  “‘Retirement’ should really just be putting on 4 new ‘tires!'”  (i.e. re-tired!)

I’ll repeat some thoughts from my summer reflections:

So here I was in Maine on our vacation.  We always visit our life long friends who live on a lake.  We had the first 3 days by ourselves.  Time to read and reflect and cut down on the tyranny of technology.  I read mostly Psalms from a wonderful new “Book of Daily Prayer” called The Paraclete Psalter which has you following the Cape Cod Community of Jesus cycle of reading the Psalms four times a day.  I also read slowly through Mary Oliver’s volume of poetry, Evidence.

I began to journal about this thing called Aging.  I know, it’s only been 4 months since I turned 60, but it has got me thinking about what I’ve decided to dub, The 4th Quarter.  I might also use the other sports analogy of Home Stretch. Both capture the positive and exciting – instead of “last-ness” or the focus on “final,” or thinking in terms of diminishment.

Think of an NBA game.  I prefer college basketball, but the pro game is often most exciting in the 4th quarter.  The spiritual and life analogies are significant: the intensity increases; you play all-out, yet under control; substitutions have to be made; you’re concerned with fouling out;  stars play with poise under pressure; all need extra endurance that comes from training and being in the best possible shape.

Here are some Psalms and poetry lines:

Psalm 39 –  ”…O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days…”
Psalm 71  – “…O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds…”
Psalm 90 – “…So teach us to number our days that we present to you a heart of wisdom…Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
[One of my sons dubbed Psalm 90, “learning to die well at any age.”]

And two lines from Evidence that  express what “out of my own heart I have been saying:”

Halleluiah, I’m sixty now,
and even a little more,
and some days I feel I have wings.
[from “Halleluiah”]

I have become older, and cherishing what I have learned,
I have become younger.
[from “To Begin With, the Sweet Grass”]

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