“Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.” (Psalm 39:4)
“They will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green.” (Psalm 92:14).
The Bible has a lot to say about getting old. And most of it is great.
As a child, I would lie awake wondering about the future. For one born in 1940, the turn of the 21st century was several lifetimes away. “In the year 2000,” I thought, “I’ll be 60 years old. Almost at the end of my life.”
When that momentous time arrived, I was scarcely out of my teens. I was anything but old. Surely not. No way was I ready to cash in my chips, to hang it all up. To call it a day. To head for the house. And a lot of metaphors like that.
I was still young and alive and working.
Did you hear about the senior couple who got married and spent their honeymoon getting out of the car?
It’s funny only if it doesn’t apply to you.
Since it appears we’re now doing a brief series on the subject of seniors remarrying, we thought there should be a place to record things that made us laugh, the silliness that has kept the fun in our relationship.
Oh, one more thing before we go on. Keep in mind that lovers often laugh at things no one else would, that they have secret, little inside jokes based on something said early in the relationship, and so not everyone will find what follows as humorous as we did. And that’s perfectly fine. We’re not going into the stand-up comic business.
Bertha and I had not been seeing each other more than one week, but already knew the Lord was in this. In one of our nightly (8 pm) phone calls, she said, “What would be a deal-breaker for you in this?” One would think this would bring a serious response from me. But my mind doesn’t work that way.
“Two are better than one…” (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
It was for good reason the Lord said “It is not good for man to be alone.” He who made humans knew them. “He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.” (Genesis 2:18 and Psalm 103:14)
The Heavenly Father knows we need someone in harness with us.
Ever try to row a boat with one oar? By stroking only on one side of the boat?
Without the counterbalance of the other oar, we tend to get off course, to go in circles, if you will.
Most of us need marriage. We are better people as a result of being joined in wedlock to someone different from us, someone who loves us, but who sees life from another angle and brings their own perspective into every issue.
Consider this a word in favor of marriage and remarriage.
Bertha and I were married to our spouses–Gary and Margaret–for some 52 years each. The Lord took Gary to Heaven in May 2014 and He took Margaret in January 2015. While we had never met each other’s families, Gary and I had been friends since seminary in the 1960s. Bertha and I met for the first time on February 15, 2016. We were married on January 11, 2017 after eleven months of visits (we lived 200 miles apart), phone calls, texts, letters, and all the usual stuff.
As I sit at the laptop typing this, our marriage is two weeks old. I recommend it!
A child expresses dismay that her grandmother is thinking of marrying again. She may say this, or perhaps it goes unsaid: “How can anyone take grandpa’s place?” Her older siblings are surprised to think of grandmother going to bed with another man. “And at her age!”
An adult son expresses dismay that his father is thinking of marrying again. He may voice this, or perhaps it goes unsaid: “He’ll end up marrying some young thing who will walk off with our inheritance!” His sister adds, “Mom has a dog for companionship. What does she need with a man? I thought she was beyond that.”
In September 1939, Winston Churchill became First Lord of the Admiralty for the second time. A quarter of a century earlier, during the First World War, he held the same position. To assume the leadership of the greatest navy of the world twice was an amazing thing. To do so 25 years apart was even more remarkable.
Churchill thought of all the great officers he had worked with the first time. They were all gone now. He alone was still living and serving. In one of his books on the Second World War, Churchill quotes this little piece from the Irish poet Thomas Moore….
“They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green…” (Psalm 92:14).
All generalizations are false. Including this one.
Every rule has its exceptions. Including this one.
Even so, I’m going to make some general statements about seniors. Readers will think of exceptions. But by and large, these statements have been found to be solid and trustworthy throughout long years of ministry.
One: Seniors are not against change; but they dislike abrupt change.
There are no 1948 Packards in your church parking lot. No 1952 DeSotos. But the seniors driving those Camrys and Corollas did not one day trade in that Packard for the Toyota. There were a series of incremental steps in between–like, first buying a 1955 Fairlane, then a 1962 Chevelle, followed by a 1972 Bonneville, and so forth.
The old man stood at the checker’s station in my grocery store. The line behind him stretched out for a half-dozen people.
He’d bought a few things, but the process of paying for it was taking forever. He fumbled around in his pocket for his wallet, then struggled with it in search of his debit card, and only with the checker’s help was he able to insert it into the machine and complete the transaction. In the process, he flirted with the lady behind him, the one just ahead of me, and made friendly comments to anyone else who might be overhearing this.
I was interested to see both the checker and the woman customer were patient with him.
When he finished, the man seemed in no hurry to pick up his purchase and move out of the way for the next customer. He looked at the line forming behind him and muttered something about being 82 years old, as though this were an achievement for which he was being honored.
You will not believe this since I’m writing about it, but I was not impatient with him, and said nothing to anyone. I did not roll my eyes, did not react, but sent up a quick prayer for him.
But I was warned.
“Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).
“Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap if you faint not” (Galatians 6:9).
Never stop doing what God put you on earth to do, whether a senior or a beginner.
And as for the seniors among us, this is certainly no time to slack off. It’s just getting good.
I’ll be speaking to the senior adults in a Mississippi church this weekend. The person making this schedule definitely had seniors in mind. The meal–I’m not sure whether it’s lunch, dinner, or supper–is set for 4 pm, after which our worship service is scheduled for 5 o’clock.
Now, they didn’t say, but I guarantee someone figured we would all be home and in bed by 6:30!
“They will still bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14).
For reasons unknown to me, I have never looked upon myself as a senior.
I’ve smiled when host pastors would welcome everyone to our senior adult emphasis, then say something as outlandish as “If you’re 50 and above, you’re a senior.” Why, I have children who would qualify by that standard, but they’re barely out of their teens.
I’m smiling. This is serious but with a wink.
The other day, while riding the train from Concourse D to Concourse B in the Atlanta airport, I entered the crowded car and spotted an empty seat toward the rear. As I settled into it, I noticed the sign read “for handicapped and seniors.” My spirit smiled at that. “I’m a senior.”
It felt good, actually.
My brother Ron, age 80 as I write, is still active in the ministry after over 53 years. In addition to preaching at a church near his home, he holds services at a nursing home. Ron says, “For the past 23 years, I’ve done a monthly service at a local nursing home. I enter, knowing that this may be the last message they will hear and I act accordingly. They love to hear me sing Fa Sol La and I accommodate them. No messages on tithing or knocking on doors but a message from the Word that will help them cross the bar a little easier.” (Note: Fa Sol La is also known as Sacred Harp Singing.)
My friend Charlotte Arthur flies under the radar in her nursing home ministry. Few people know of her ministry to these invalids. Charlotte visits and ministers and devotes herself to comforting these who are in the declining years of life. As her former pastor, I accompanied her on one occasion to visit an elderly friend who had served our church for decades. Charlotte and a friend or two had pulled the strings to get Cleve Davenport into that nursing home where he was being cared for night and day. I asked her how she got started in this work.
“When I was six years old,” she said, “my mother took me with her to visit people in nursing homes. So, I’ve done it all my life.” She paused and said, “I love it.”
Here are five statements on nursing home ministry to encourage you.