Once when family gathered, I asked, “What do you think of when I say, ‘Old Woman’?” My son-in-law said, “White hair. Black coat.” I had to laugh. I fit that concise description. But the critical question is, what comes to my mind when I say, “Old Woman”? Is Old Woman a stage of life I can step into with eager expectation and hope?
So far, being seventy-six isn’t any more challenging for me than being thirty. The issues are different, but my limitations have been a factor at every age—and at every age, an opportunity to learn Christ. As a new bride trying to feed lots of servicemen on a tight budget, I felt my inadequacies severely. At thirty, with three children in four years and a house full of people, I was more tired than I am at seventy-six. Each book I wrote brought me near tears in frustration and confusion.
Life moves from one challenge to the next. Currently, my track for experiencing Jesus includes macular degeneration (a condition that can lead to blindness) and a task-specific intention tremor (which makes handwriting impossible, chopping vegetables life-threatening, and dainty eating a thing of the past). As I face possible blindness or hacking myself to death, the psalms are salting my life with encouragement and inspiration. “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him” (Psalm 92:12-15, ESV).
From these verses, I drew three observations to inspire my old age.
A flourishing, fruitful old person cultivates taproots.
A flourishing, fruitful old person cultivates a high view of God.
A flourishing, fruitful old person cultivates a vision beyond themselves.
These same truths apply to a flourishing, fruitful thirty-year-old. I love being in my mid-seventies and discovering that the secret to living a “green” life doesn’t change. Until my mortal body and mind prevent it, I intend to pursue the things I believe make a difference.
I read that palm trees don’t gain their nutrients from the desert sand. Instead, they send a long taproot into water far below. From that nutrient-rich, invisible source, date palms bear grape-like bunches of dates, sometimes weighing one hundred pounds. A hidden life within produces growth and increase. Both the cedar of Lebanon and the palm are ever-green and long-lived even in harsh conditions. I’m counting on Christ’s fortifying life in me. An invisible sap rises within: Christ in me. Flourishing and fruitfulness depend on His vitality, not mine. My part is to cultivate the taproot. Abide in Him. Let His word dwell in me richly. Pray in the Spirit. Confess and repent. Draw near in faith. Draw near. Draw near.
A High View of God
“God is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” A high view of God is a cultivated grace which is under frequent attack. Quite honestly, I struggle here. I live in a world gone horribly wrong, and it threatens to take me down. The psalmist struggles, too (Psalm 73 and 74). “My feet had almost stumbled, my steps nearly slipped” (Ps. 73:2, ESV). Then he turns his eyes from evil to the greater reality. “But as for me, how good it is to be near God! I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter, and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do” (Psalm 73:28, NLT.) When I trust that He is in me and that there is no wickedness in Him, His life rises in me. My choice to draw near to God, to shelter in Him, keeps evil under the sovereign heel of the Lord Jesus Christ. So I guard the space reserved for God and me alone. I slow. I open myself to see and receive.
A Vision beyond Myself
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” My husband commented this morning that it is in seeking the things that concern Christ that we get to know Him. I agree. When I look beyond myself and my interests to the heart and purposes of God, to the invisible world (the warfare, the glorious resources, my eternal future), I experience His life in me. As long as God sustains, I want to go from “white hair, black coat” to “mysteriously green.” Still growing, bearing fruit, buoyed, rooted and nourished by a high view of God, engaged, seeing further than eye can see. Still in the game. Expression of supernatural mystery and glory in weakness.
So [I] do not lose heart. Though [my] outer self is wasting away, [my] inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for [me] an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as [I] look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
—2 Corinthians 4:16-18, ESV