‘It must be her age,’ I overheard my mother sharing with her friends, concerning someone’s health problems. ‘What a stupid thing to say,’ was my reaction. Surely, everyone is an age, whether old or young. However, when I came out with this excuse, that it must be my age, concerning some problem or other, my poor, rather Victorian, mother was horrified.
Soon enough I learned the meaning, and the dread, connected with that certain age of a woman, though when it came, I almost welcomed it thinking I would be delivered from the monthly cycle of pain and depression. But deliverance from these problems introduced me to another unwelcome guest. His name was Arthur. Yes, maybe you have guessed, - arthritis.
But I was right. Every age has its own problems, from the early months when the much to be welcomed teeth arrive with pain and often a high temperature. And what mother will not tell you of the difficult teen age years, when we are not sure where we belong, or even how we feel.
At last we are grown up, at the peek of our powers, physically and intellectually, or so we are told, but already the big ‘O’s are looming and we realise life does not last for ever, and that we are at best, children of dust.
So what of my age now? I believe it was Spurgeon who prayed that God would save us from being forty, for he found that many zealous Christians thought they could retire from the battle field when they had reached that not so great age.
So is there an age of retirement? As redundancy and unemployment loom, people seem to accept retirement earlier and earlier. Some are fortunate enough to have a good pension, and are able to live for pleasure. But too much pleasure can weary one, and we can find, with Solomon, that in the end it does not satisfy.
Younger than my husband, I was still in my fifties when he was officially retired from the ministry, but we never accepted retirement, dubbing it rather – retyrement. No longer burdened with the problems of administration, we were both free to continue in all the aspects of ministry we enjoyed. What a privilege to be invited to preach in local churches who no longer had a minister of their own, to go into the schools and old peoples homes, to visit the sick and lonely and of course, to write.
Now a widow, God has opened a door for me to teach a course called Bible Explorer. We have fun in going through these wonderful stories in the Bible and God is teaching me too. We get to Terah, Abraham’s father. (A real terror, I say, to help the children remember, but of course, he wasn’t.) I don’t think he was invited, but he thought he should come along to look after them when Abraham answered God’s call to leave Ur and set out for the country God would show him. They travelled many miles, and probably over some years, when they reach the town of Haran. Here Terah decides he is too old to go any further, so for years the whole tribe is stuck in Haran because Terah thinks it is time for him to die.
Terah never saw the Promised Land because he retired too soon. I tell the children, if only he had said, ‘I can take one more step,’ he could have taken one step and then another until he had arrived there in the land God had promised them. I try to remember that when I feel I am too old, and that my strength is running out. Life is just a step at a time.
Isaac is another one. His eye sight was failing, so he decides it is his time to die and to hand on his responsibilities. Thus comes that awful story of Jacob cheating his brother from his birthright.
Now Jacob has to run away, while poor sad Isaac is left, doubtless at odds with his wife because she had egged Jacob on to deceive him, while Esau is angry and frustrated, far from being a comfort to him. He lives on for many years, an unhappy old man. It seems he too retired much too soon.
And so God continues to speak to me.
‘Mrs. Lewis, how old are you? About sixty or sixty five?’ one of my young Bible Explorers asked me.
‘Oh, I’m much older than that.’
‘Well you don’t look it.’
I was amused by his swift response. Who had taught him to flatter? Children don’t have much concept of older age anyway, but I was amazed at what then came out of my mouth.
‘I am going to be like Moses,’ I informed him.
Moses had been in our lesson that day; Moses, who began to lead a nation at the age of eighty, and died at the age of a hundred and twenty, still full of vigour and with clear eye sight. It says ‘His natural strength had not abated, nor his eye sight waxed dim.’
I have to confess I do not often feel full of vigour, but I can still put one foot in front of the other, and step out in faith day by day. I know that others consider me to be in my old age, but I remember my puzzlement as a child over this diagnosis of ‘her age,’ and so I am asking myself, ‘What age?’ and out of that question comes the word ‘wattage’ and that is something, or everything to do with power. To get wattage you have to be plugged in to the source of power.
That, surely, is what life is all about. At any age we can feel weak and helpless and at any and every age we can rely on the Lord for our strength, our joy, our power.