“LORD, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” (Psalm 90:1)
Once I was asked, “Do we become grumpy when we are old or do we grow grumpy as we grow old?” This is a very innocent question but the answer is profound. This is because the answer can shape the way we ought to grow old. The answer (I think) is that we grow grumpy as we grow old without us consciously knowing about it. This is due to the inherent sinful nature that if our lives are not lived with discipline and a consciousness of God sanctifying us continuously, our attitudes and behavior will only degenerate. We arrive at grumpiness without us making any efforts in becoming grumpy!
How can we reap a harvest of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and how can we grow to become a gentle, kind and peaceable person as we grow old? I would like to suggest three things we can consider.
First, we need to return to our fundamental doctrine that we are all born sinners. Sinners are those whose life, actions and words are contrary to the expectations and intentions of God. We are born sinners – it means that from the moment we are out of our mother’s womb, all our words, actions and thoughts are inherently or explicitly in contradiction to the desire and will of God. This means that left to ourselves, we will only get worse. It was not too long ago that homosexuality, greed, promiscuous living were outright wrong and sinful even in the standard of society. However, today, these have become part and parcel of the modern world. The saving grace for us as Christians is that upon becoming a Christian, we are born again with a new lease of life. However, the new lease of life is embedded within the inherently sinful nature. This means that as Christians, the old and new natures struggle within us and we are still prone to sin. The first thing that will guard us in becoming a grumpy old person is that we understand the sinfulness in us and the need to work on our sanctification, namely, God’s intention to set us apart for Himself. This means we are to strip off, systematically, carefully and willfully, our sinful nature and to embrace the character of God. Knowing our state allows us to decide to take actions to move beyond where we are. Are you consciously taking steps to sanctify your life for Christ? Or are you letting the sinful nature take its natural course in your life?
Secondly, the Psalmist’s secret in growing old in God is to know and to acknowledge that God has been his dwelling place. Psalms 90 is called the prayer of Moses as it describes his experience and prayer as he considers the guiding hands of God in his life. His introductory verse was “LORD, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations”. A dwelling place in the harsh Old Testament environment is a place of comfort, security, rest and a shelter from the hustles and bustles of a hostile world. We learn to reap the fruit of the Holy Spirit as we seek shelter in God’s dwelling place. It is likened to the calm water in the hollow of one’s pair of hands in the midst of a dry desert. Jim Eliot’s favourite phrase was “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. We learn to grow old graciously when we learn to find rest in the shelter of the Almighty and make God our dwelling place.
Finally, in the shadow of the Almighty, we develop deep appreciation, gratitude and thanksgiving in our souls as we see the world differently. Instead of insisting on our rights and our points of view (which could be right legally, morally or positionally), we learn to respect, to give benefits of doubt and to carry the weak or wrong doers. We learn to see the beauty in others and we learn to live with those who may not match our gifting, wealth and achievements. We learn to see the uniqueness in others and to verbalise our appreciation for them and what they meant to us. We learn to take time to pause and thank them for their contributions to our lives. We tend to say more “thank you”, “good morning”, “take care”, “appreciate what you have done” and all the phrases which require very little efforts. How stingy we have been in our compliments! The problem is that we cannot verbalise what we do not have. If we do not have gratitude, thanksgiving and appreciation in our hearts, our mouths and actions cannot express what a heart does not have. As we grow old graciously, we need to learn how to smell the roses and see the beauty of life in the midst of a broken and shattered world. When was the last time you wrote a “thank you” note to someone or even God? When was the last time you appreciate God for everything He has done for you?
Let me bring you all the way to the end…. How do you want to be remembered? Would you be remembered with the following phrases: “The kindest boss I ever had”, “A man who always bring cheers to the downhearted”, “One who fights for the weak and never fail to lend a helping hand”, “He really cares for us!”, “I really miss her”, “A great loss to our community”, “The place is never the same without her”. What would you be remembered for?
Eld Ho Yew Kee