Saturday, May 25, 2019
Rebels. . . without a cause. . .
It is strange because we live at a time when the aged are increasing in number and in proportion to the population as a whole. Could it be that we don't want to admit who we are? Yet older folks are invisible in our culture. Except, of course, the aged who betray their age with a youth that seems quaint while affirming the preference for being young. We can tolerate a Betty White or a Tony Bennett who seem ageless but when it comes to those upon whom time has left its mark by way of broken and fragile bodies and minds, well, nobody wants to see that!
I get the AARP magazine and newspaper and it is filled with images of older folks (defined as those over 55) who are still youthful as if to tell the rest of us this is the way to age, growing old gracefully while masking as much as possible any of its cruel effects. So issue after issue tells us of the aged (yes, those over 55) who are still sexy and athletic. The implication is that this is the only way to grow old and if it does not apply to you, well, then maybe you ought to move to one of those states that allows you to pull the plug on life when it is no longer worth living.
All of this stands in stark contrast to the Biblical culture in which the hoary mane was a badge of honor and the elderly were seen as precious treasures of wisdom, experience, and life. Instead of the stereotypical Eskimo idea of wandering off on the ice to die, the Bible lauds the aged as heroic testaments to the triumph of God's grace and the endurance of faith. The story of the Presentation and Purification would not be the same with a Gen X Simeon singing about heading home from church instead of an aged prophet ready to die. Nope, as much as we try to make friends with death, our refusal to honor the aged and the way we consider them a burden betrays our Achilles' heel -- we are as afraid of death as we are of growing old.
Movie quotes constantly remind us of Bette Davis who said growing old ain't for sissies. She was right. It is not. It takes strength of will and character and faith to endure the onslaught of time and keep on hoping against hope for the God who is our help from generation to generation. Perhaps it takes someone who has seen a few generations come and go to appreciate that. In any case, it is high time that the older folks stopped being invisible (unless they did not act or look old) and all our culture stopped worshiping the fountain of youth. God has not promised to make us forever young but to bestow upon us eternal life -- something far different from a moment in time repristinated over and over and over again. I cannot tell you what it will be like but it is better than we can imagine and makes all our hopes and dreams of such a future pale in comparison. Our glory is not in our past or in our youth but in the God who erases the sins and guilt of our yesterdays, releases us from the prison of the moment, and bestows upon us the gift of eternity. As I said, I don't know how to describe that future but it will certainly be better than old butts in skinny jeans and wicked hair cuts that jump from the pages of the latest fashion magazines.