Aging and Purpose

In our community group the other day, a friend asked for prayer. She and her husband are asking God for direction – wanting to live out their later years well. Her prayer request resonated with me.

We don’t like to talk much about aging but, of course, it’s real. It’s likely that I’ve lived a good 3/4 of my life, quite possibly even more. I’m in the last year of my 6th decade. I’m not guaranteed more days; I’m definitely in that last stretch! Like my friend I want to live out these later years well, in obedience to His call on my life!

Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.

Isaiah 46:4

I retired 5 years ago after having been an educator, teacher, administrator, and school leader for over 35 years. I loved all things school – loved students, loved teaching, loved being a principal, had the privilege to work with amazing educators! I found great satisfaction, even great purpose in my work. It was a ministry. So when I first retired, I have to admit I spent time wondering who am I apart from school? Do I still have purpose? Do I still have a ministry?

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock!

Psalm 92:12 – 15

In the last year with the pandemic, there have been many public statements denigrating the value of older adults in our society. As I approach year 70 … only 52 weeks away, I wonder will I be expendable?

For example, COVID-19 has been characterized with the hashtag #BoomerRemover, which has been trending on social media platforms, often accompanied with ageist disparaging and devaluing memes.
Public discourse during the pandemic has increasingly portrayed those over the age of 70 as helpless, frail, and unable to contribute to society. These views are being spread by social media, the press, and public announcements by government officials throughout the world. … Some of the coverage seems to suggest that the deaths of older people somehow are not as important as the younger population.

Elder Abuse and Ageism During COVID-19

As I read some of these statements about the aged, and how they (ummm, “we”) don’t contribute to society, I was sad. I was sad because obviously the people believing that those over 70 offer little to society don’t have extended family; they don’t have loving grandparents, great-grandparents; they don’t have older friends to speak into their lives; instead they see those of us who are older only as burdensome, unproductive, non-contributing.

And I had to ask, is my worth measured only in how many productive hours I spend each day? And who decides what is productivity? What constitutes contributing to society? If I want to live out these next 5, 10, 15 years with purpose, with value, what might that look like?

Question 1: What is the chief and highest end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever. 

The Westminster Larger Catechism

When I retired that idea of purpose and ministry became a conversation I had often with God. And that prayer still bubbles up from time to time but I’m reworking that prayer! Instead of asking what is my purpose as if I have could have none, or what is my ministry as if I could have none, I am asking, “In what ways can I walk today in the way of love to honor you, Lord?”

God is faithful; He answers that prayer!

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Ephesians 5:1-2

By Thy Holy Spirit’s power,
Lord, use me,
In Thy service hour by our,
Lord, use me,
Bending heart to do Thy will,
Glad Thy bidding to fulfill,
As at Pentecost, come still,
Lord, use me.

In fulfilling Thy commands,
Lord, use me,
Yielding heart and brain and hands,
Lord, use me,
By Thy gracious love possessed,
Use me in Thy service blest,
In this world to do my best,
Lord, use me.

All self-seeking take away,
Lord, use me,
Cleanse and keep me day by day,
Lord, use me,
As a reed Thy breezes blow,
Lift me up or lay me low,
Making heavenly music go,
Lord, use me.

Eliza E. Hewitt
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