Who is that Guy in the Mirror?

I dread looking in the mirror in the morning! I just trotted down the hall, and I’m half-asleep. I haven’t had my coffee before I stumble into the bathroom. When I flip on the light, it’s a shock. Who is that guy? From my side of the mirror, I am at the peak of life. I’m wise and good-looking, but the man in the mirror is telling me a different story. Apparently, I am not alone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau:

During the 20th century, the number of persons in the United States under age 65 has tripled. At the same time, the number aged 65 or over has jumped by a factor of 11! Consequently, the elderly, who comprised only 1 in every 25 Americans (3.1 million) in 1900, made up 1 in 8 (33.2 million) in 1994. … The “oldest old” – those aged 85 and over – are the most rapidly growing elderly age group. Between 1960 and 1994, their numbers rose 274 percent. In contrast, the elderly population, in general, rose 100 percent, and the entire U.S. population grew only 45 percent.[1]

So, what does that mean? Solomon, arguably the wisest man who ever lived, addressed this question in his last book, Ecclesiastes:

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; 

When we were teenagers, this text seemed to be the theme of every youth rally. “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.” Now I look at the second half of that verse: “before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” As I look at the old guy in the mirror, I have to disagree. These are the best days of my life! But growing old isn’t for the faint-hearted. I remember one of our elders explaining to my teen Bible class what the rest of the passage meant. It is a picture of growing old.

“… before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened, and the clouds return after the rain, 

Solomon is talking about growing old and losing our sight as we start adding up the candles on our cake.

“… in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent,” 

The Sage continues the description of growing older as we begin to stoop as our bones age. We may start to lose a few of our teeth (or at least some crowns). Solomon warns: “the grinders cease because they are few.”

I’ll let you think about the rest of the symbols of aging that Solomon shares with us:

“and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity “(Ecclesiastes 12:1 – 8).

However, before we become too depressed about growing old, I want to say: “These are the best days of my life.” I’m not ready to check-out just yet. I have a treasure trove of memories that pop up at the most unexpected times and make me smile. I’d like to think I have some hard-earned wisdom that can help me navigate the uncertain times ahead. During the Second World War, the Merchant Marine discovered something amazing. When a ship was torpedoed, and the crew manned the lifeboats, the youngsters gave up and died while the seasoned salts survived. Why? The old men’s experience and maturity filled them with hope![2]

Something else I relish is that I no longer have to prove myself continually. Like Popeye said, “I yam what I yam.” That’s another blessing! It’s okay to crawl under the table with my grandchildren and not worry about what anyone else will think of me, and I don’t have to dress to impress. I can wear my favorite shirt simply because it is my favorite shirt.

Part of the joy of growing older is I like to think I have something to share if anyone would care to take the time to ask for my advice.

But the greatest joy is knowing: the best is yet to come! We are closer to the goal than we ever have been before!

Be a Blessing!

  [1] Downloaded from https://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/statbriefs/agebrief.html June 2, 2020.

[2] The result of these studies became the basis for the creation of the British Outward Bound program.

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