One fact of life that can be difficult to accept is that in order for us to fully embrace the future, we must leave behind not only the distant past, but even the recent past. This can be especially hard in times of major transition, such as moving on from a relationship, or changing from one job or house to another.
The other day my wife and I took a stroll along the waterfront, enjoying the beauty of a large lake—the rugged mountains rising on both sides, the river that flows into the lake and supplies it with fresh water, the birds bobbing on the waves, the ever-changing hues of the lake, and the sun reflecting off the surface, transforming it into a stream of glittering gold. The big body of water and surrounding mountains provide a uniquely sheltered and pleasant climate.
My husband and I recently found ourselves on our own again. After raising ten children over 40 years, I didn’t see this coming!
We’ve always been a close-knit family, but of course, as the children have grown up, one by one they’ve been moving on. I cried each time, as it felt like a piece of my heart was being torn away.
I recently saw this quote and loved its description of a family: “Families are the compass that guides us. They are the inspiration to reach great heights, and our comfort when we occasionally falter.”
But families aren’t static. In fact, in our lives, one of the main things that changes as we go through the seasons of life is our relationships with family. As my three-year-old son recently said, “First, you are a boy, then you turn into a dad, then you turn into a grandpa.” Oh, for the simplicity of a child.
Since turning 70, I’ve been thinking more about the benefits of aging. Even though many of us who are getting older have already felt some of the disadvantages or difficulties, there are also many good things to be found in this stage of our lives. I want to explore a few of these with you by sharing some of my own thoughts and experiences. Of course, you may not be at the stage in life where these things apply to you personally, but you may be interested for the sake of elderly family members or friends.
Do you ever wonder if you are doing what God wants you to do? As in, what’s that purpose you were created for? What is it that you’re meant to do that will give your life meaning? I’ve wondered those things, and I still do sometimes. These are the sort of big questions that we don’t always easily find the answers for.
A friend of mine told me this bit of friendly advice in an effort to encourage me to welcome some new changes in my life. My wife and I had been living in the Middle East for some seven years, and it had been a great chapter of our lives, but we were finding ourselves slowly being phased out of our roles into a kind of pre-retirement. Over the years, we’d grown our roots, and like a potted plant that outgrows its pot, we felt as if we were running out of good ground to grow in. It seemed to both of us that this could be our time to be transplanted into a bigger pot—a new place with new challenges.
Last year was a rough one. Not terrible, just trying. Our family faced lots of challenges regarding work, health, and finances, and I’ve been hoping that things will be easier this year. But let me tell you about what God is teaching me right now, because there are some wonderful things that I have gained from these challenges.
Our theatre group regularly performs a dynamic skit based on a monologue from the Shakespeare play As You Like It, where he summarizes the seasons of our lives in seven stages: the crying baby, the reluctant schoolboy, the pining lover, the fierce soldier, the wise judge, the old man, and finally death.
When I was a child I remember bursting into tears when thinking of my parents growing old. I loved them so much, and just the thought that one day they could lose some hair and get a few wrinkles was so hard! Thinking about it now, something in me was dreading the aging process. I felt strongly that everything beautiful should never end or lose its spark.