I never asked my Grandmother that question. She lived with us for many years, but people didn’t talk much about how they felt in their hearts, especially to children.
I now wonder if it’s even possible to teach younger people how to be old. We can pass on life skills to toddlers, primary school children, secondary school students, and young marrieds, but what about training people for their latter years?
Since I began the draft of this post long ago (!) I’ve read that some educators are planning a course for teenagers to teach them how to prepare for old age. They’ll talk about health issues, or discuss housing, transport and life challenges, but how do we impart how it feels to be old?
I can’t compare my teenage experience with the current group. I wasn’t typical. I grew up in the church, happy there, and close to my family. We had no idea what today’s world would be like. Things have certainly changed! It’s a certainty that life will be different in fifty, sixty, or seventy years from now. Perhaps Facebook will be empty and some other way of ‘communicating’ will appear. Maybe lots of teenagers will even find their grandparents interesting!
Many years ago, I realised I’d learned something new every year since I’d been married. I made a list in my head, and saw that I’d been educated on how to be a wife, a mother, a gardener and a cook. I’d started a creche so parents could enjoy the church services without worrying that their baby might disturb other worshippers. I led a Young Mum’s Group in an era when fathers might refuse to babysit their own children so their wife could have a night out! I attended Bible School when I was pregnant with our youngest son! I managed to participate in a creative writing class, learning to proofread and use good grammar. Later I ran one in our town. I was surprised how many new talents, how much knowledge, God had laid out for me on my way!
The marathon of life that we’re running with the Lord, gets more challenging towards the end. We need every resource we’ve brought with us from the past. I’d say to the youth of today, ‘Don’t think all that learning should be discarded as if it won’t be needed. Take it with you – the Lord will use it all!’
I can see that in my own life. Those things I learned were lessons from God to equip me for that time… and for my latter years. I’ve meditated about the best advice I could give to those who’ll be following my own children into old age. I can’t do better than to give them this counsel from the prophet Isaiah: God energises those who get tired… For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
And this enthusiastic encouragement from the Holy Spirit, who says, Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it.
Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honour, right alongside God.
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
Great advice for the journey, isn’t it?