By Annette Cook; Director of Senior Adult Ministries; Christ Church Episcopal; Greenville, SC
“The greatest honor that you can give to Almighty God… is to live joyfully because of the knowledge of his love.” And, “The fullness of Joy is to behold God in everything.”
Dame Julian named what we also must keep at the forefront of our lives if we are to live into our apostleship for Christ. If we are truly followers of Christ, faithfully engaged in his mission then we cannot live un-joyfully or we prove ourselves false. Do we believe God is the perfect good and loving god? Do we believe God is sustaining and loving us, no matter what? Do we trust God in everything? Fr. John Catoir in a broadcast on joy makes the point that joy is our response to God’s love and that the response which comes from a deep faith is trust. If we say yes to the above assertions, and I think as Christians we must, then we cannot live by the mores and ideals of the world.
Our culture tells us that to be young and thin are ideal. We spend a lot of time, energy and money trying to keep the truth from others and ourselves—that we are maturing. John tells us that God loved all of us so much God sent Jesus to redeem us. Who then are we to reject the unspeakable joy of Christ Jesus and instead embrace Madison Avenue? Trust means we can joyfully let go of society’s definitions of success, love and beauty. Trust means we can accept our lives and our looks without anxiety.
God didn’t make a mistake when creating our wrinkles, our slowing metabolisms, and our graying and balding heads. We can embrace our whole lives and give thanks for them as Paul instructed us to do. Or, we can fight nature, hide our aging selves and for some of us, live in a state of denial and worry because we can’t stop the inevitable.
An unintended consequence of our mistrust in God’s creation is that we make judgments about persons based on chronology and looks—White hair and slower gait must mean mental slowness and an uninteresting person, for example. How sad it is that as a culture we have stigmatized aging so much that most of us don’t want to be labeled “senior” or “old.”
To me “Senior” means wise, a survivor, lovable, worthy of respect, in the prime, knowledgeable, creative, and compassionate. Rejecting and denying our aging selves then demeans a whole part of our lives which God intended us to live into. My message is to be as active, as engaged, as inquisitive as you want to be and be a proud senior. Most of all be joyful and trust that God’s template for human life is good so give thanks in all things, wrinkles too. God blesses all the days of our lives.