Week of Oct. 16: Wisdom for aging and the ability to live youthfully
By VICKY BRANTLEY and JOHN BRANTLEY
Scripture: Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:7, 13
Prayer: O God, let me fear nothing, except forgetting to trust you in all things. Amen,
A good friend once said, “Getting old is not so bad, but being old is the pits!” What’s good about growing old? We may not have a ready answer, but the alternative is not so appealing. We often hear, “If I had it all to over again, I would do things differently. I would eat dessert first. I would only have grandchildren.” However, we are called to live this day. These, in fact, are the good old days. We have the responsibility to understand our life experiences and then share the lessons we have learned.
Live youthfully, not foolishly
This message in Ecclesiastes encourages the reader to live youthfully. An important part of our maturity is testing the limits of youth so we are prepared for the certain responsibilities life demands. To be youthful is to ask questions, explore the unknown and experience the world God has created. The caution is not to be foolish. Don’t simply wish you had lived when you have the opportunity to experience life.
Too many parents are anxious for their children to grow up too fast. A mother was heard to say, “My daughter is seven, going on 21.” Childhood and youth should be a glorious time of play and exploration without having to worry or fret too much about the future. Someone has said, “We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he or she is someone today.” For at age 21 the responsibilities of the law become a full burden. Don’t waste the opportunity of grace. We also know that children need boundaries and discipline to help them learn to be good decision makers. Young people can profit from the wisdom their elders have to share if the sharing is done with love and an encouraging attitude. Even children must be held accountable for their actions when they disobey rules or fail to respect themselves and others. Some lessons we might learn from our children would include; living in the moment for the very joy of what you are seeing and feeling; do things that are fun and bring joy into your life; enter each new experience believing you are up to the task; and smile whenever possible. There is an adage that says, “Don’t count the days; make the days count.” It is written in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again. Rejoice.”
A Swedish proverb says, “Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.” Someone else said, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it wont get you anywhere.” It is easy to say, “Be happy, don’t worry about it.” It is difficult to take responsibility and move ahead into action or to relinquish control and work through the consequences of our reality. Being anxious can become an overwhelming experience. After all, there is much to be anxious about: money, health, our children, poverty and hunger, the future and many other things. Some of those matters we can be dutiful about taking care of, but much of what we become anxious about are things over which we have little or not control.
A favorite illustration of anxiety is a hot water heater. A traditional water heater stays full of water and only takes a small amount of fresh water added to the system to force steaming waters out the other end. The command in the text is to banish anxiety. So our work is to empty the emotional baggage, hurt, pain and fear, giving these broken energies to God, making room for the living waters. Jesus certainly understood this facet of human nature when he encouraged his listeners and tells us today, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes (Matthew 6:34 The Message).
Arthur Rank, an English executive, decided to do all his worrying on one day each week. He chose Wednesdays. When anything happened that gave him anxiety and annoyed his ulcer, he would write it down and put it in his worry box and forget about it until next Wednesday. The interesting thing was that on the following Wednesday when he opened his worry box, he found that most of the things that had disturbed him the past six days were already settled. It would have been useless to worry about them.
The whole duty of everyone
The Barna Group is an independent organization conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values and beliefs. They recently released a report that states, “One of the remarkable facts about the current U.S. adult population is the breadth of people’s exposure to spiritual training as children and teenagers. More than eight out of every 10 adults remembers consistently attending Sunday school or some other religious training before the age of 12. Those who recall being involved typically said they were engaged every week. In fact, seven out of 10 adults said they attended religious programs weekly.” It is important to provide children with spiritual training and it is the responsibility of the church, parents and the Christian community to provide leadership to that end.
Too often we hear older members of a congregation say “I’ve done my time with the children or taking positions of leadership or being involved in hands-on mission.” The fact is that no one else can bring the wisdom and true perspective that seasoned saints can because of their success and failures and real life experience. There is no excused absence for part of the body. The church needs the vitality and daring of the young, the hope and know-how of the middle-aged and the understanding and experience of its elders. There can be wisdom in every stage of life. We all must keep God’s commandments from the heart and seek God’s community. None of us is as smart as all of us.
Take Action: Don’t wait for someone to ask you to help with the children and youth of your church family, just show up this Wednesday or Sunday ready to serve.
“O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end; be thou forever with me, my Master and my friend.” The United Methodist Hymnal #396.