On faith: Aging wellAn older friend surprised me some time ago when he said that it was no fun growing old.
By: Rev. Michael Lyons, Lake County News Chronicle
An older friend surprised me some time ago when he said that it was no fun growing old. My surprise was due to the fact that I had just complimented him on staying in shape and working out at the local gym. When I asked why he felt the way he did, he described a long list of ailments beginning with the usual morning reminders of the many hockey games he once played. I chuckled when I realized that listening to him sounded much like what I was beginning to experience myself. A wake-up call if you will, I felt the first promptings of the Holy Spirit to consider the spiritual implications of what he said.
The Bible reminds us that our later years can be a period of growth and grace. Thanks to advanced medical care, we can experience the wisdom that Job says comes with old age and the richer understandings that a long life brings. Advanced age, he adds, should bring wisdom and indeed many opportunities to share it. To that end we are blessed with plenty of resources to help us reflect on our lives and prepare to meet the Lord of the harvest when he calls us home.
Many suggest that we learn to live in the present moment. The past is important; it has shaped us and brought us to where we are. Memories, especially the good ones, need to be treasured and brought to awareness from time to time. Good memories help provide a sense of well-being and validate one’s life. Painful memories remind us that there is still work to do. The future is not yet, and while planning needs to be done and relishing up-coming events can give one a reason for “getting out of bed,” the reality is that life is not lived in the future. As God told Moses in Exodus, “I AM WHO AM!” God is a God of the present moment.
On the other hand, we also need to periodically engage in a review of life. This helps to bring home the realization that God has always been at work in the course of one’s life. Oftentimes, it is only in retrospect that the providential Hand of God can be seen around our shoulders. We may have felt abandoned during a difficult experience, but from the distance of time we can better see God’s design. This realization can be a source of deep gratitude and an opportunity to constantly give thanks.
Memory work reminds us that there is much messiness in life and that in approaching our final days we may see some ( perhaps many) loose ends. As a priest for many years, I can attest to the importance of becoming fully reconciled with family members and friends. In doing so, some anger and misunderstandings and other unsettling feelings may occur. As we come however to the final days of our earthly journey, memory work, still supported by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, will spur us on to make every effort in the delicate task of mending, if necessary, broken or strained relationships.
A challenge of old age, with the help of the ever-present Spirit, is to tap into the spiritual potential within us and continue to become the person that God desires us to be. There is never a time when the opportunity for spiritual growth ceases. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, there is always room for surprise. “Happy those whom you guide, LORD, whom you teach by your instruction.” (Psalm 94:12)
Rev. Michael Lyons is a priest at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Two Harbors.