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Joy in Aging

If You’re Not Getting Older…

I was widowed at a young age. Before his death, my husband was subject to his younger brothers’ teasing about getting older. As soon as he turned 21, for example, they would warn that he was “almost 30.” He would respond with consistency: “If you’re not getting older, you’re dead.” Truth.

But this seems like a minimalist view of aging — a sense of aging as inevitable, yes, and simply as a measure of time. Getting older is a daily move toward death.

Abundant aging is altogether another thing. Abundant aging calls us to live in possibility. To ask for, and even expect, the miraculous. To be open to new realizations and to be willing to keep learning.

Water Into Wine

Abundant aging might be as remarkable as changing water into wine.

When I think of that story of Jesus’ first miracle, I can dwell in the mundane details. There’s a problem to solve. The wine has run out. Mary, as many mothers might do, feels compelled to do something — anything. She asks her son Jesus to help. In what might be seen as a “typical” interaction between parent and child, Jesus refuses. Pushes back. Resists. We might imagine him saying: “Why should I?” And, maybe Mary responded with: “Just give it a try, please?” Solve the problem.

God’s Power in the Work

But perhaps this miraculous story opens us to the unexpected. The problem gets solved, yes, but not in the way anyone could expect. In the solution, Jesus gives us direction in how to face life’s challenges.

Filling the huge water jars in ancient times was a big job. Even when our challenges seem insurmountable, we can imagine a solution.

Imagining a solution might also ask us to take some responsibility for doing the work. As the long-ago servants drew the water, they worked hard.

That hard work, though, allowed for God’s power in the work.

And doing any work in faith, without a sense of the results (beyond the obvious — full jars), is risky, naïve even. That faith, though, challenges us to watch for a revealing of God’s glory through our action.

Joy in Aging

I have a zero at the end of my age. I’ve been thinking about aging a lot lately. Not the simple passage of time, but about what I hope to see in the years left in my life. Maybe not miracles, but a joy in aging — a fulfilling of life.

I love to walk and hike. Two years ago, I had never done an all-day hike. Last summer, a friend asked me to sign up for a week-long hiking trip in the Canadian Rockies.  I said yes. What? I’d never done anything like this before. But I began the hard work of training for long hikes in altitude and with challenging elevation. I prayed for strength and courage and persistence. I didn’t know whether my preparation would be enough. My goal was to accomplish the trip and have prepared well enough to have fun.

During my preparation, I worried about my boots, was challenged by foot pain, found excuses not to train in bad weather and could only imagine what the trip would hold.

God’s Blessings

The trip was stupendous. Full of beauty and challenge and friendship and accomplishment. God’s amazing creation spread out in front of us at every turn. My body was well prepared, and I did things I never imagined. The leaders of the trip were encouragement to me, and I learned from their confidence and faith.

This stage of life is calling me to be brave and curious and ready to see God’s blessings in every step, whether I’m training for my next hiking trip (to Vermont and Quebec) or going to the basement to do laundry.

Abundant life at any age is a by-product of our faith.

Mary Oliver

Her words inspire me. From her poem “In the Storm”:

 

Belief isn’t always easy.
But this much I have learned,
if not enough else —
to live with my eyes open.

I know what everyone wants
is a miracle.
This wasn’t a miracle.
Unless, of course, kindness —

as now and again
some rare person has suggested —
is a miracle.
As surely it is.

About Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald

Rev. Ruth FitzgeraldRev. Ruth Fitzgerald served in parish ministry for nine years before being named the Area Conference Minister for the Grand West Association of the Michigan Conference United Church of Christ. She serves on the community board at Pilgrim Manor, a United Church Homes community. Ruth has two grown children and is eagerly awaiting the birth of her first grandchild. Hiking, knitting, and reading fill her "spare" time.

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