If you are being conscious about aging, then it means that you have aged. I am now being conscious about aging. It feels a little sad that I am aging. I want to deny that I’m aging but it’s a reality that I cannot deny. If you want to decrease the number of candles on your birthday cake, then it means that you have aged.
When we are aging, we are tempted not to recognize the fact that we are aging. We are tempted to show and prove that we are still young. The feeling of aging is not just reserved for the old. It is a reality even for young men and women. Even as they are transitioning from their twenties to their thirties, young people feel that they are aging.
Those of you who are older would remember the day when you first felt that you were aging. All of you who are aging share an experience of having a day when you felt perplexed because your eyes became blurry and couldn’t read as you normally would. Feeling perplexed from the experiences of looking for a car key while holding the key in your hands and looking for glasses while wearing the glasses give us a sense of frustration and discouragement. As we have entered into the Aging Era, we want to live in eternal youth. We are willing to do whatever that will make us look young. We comfort each other by greeting one another in saying, “You look young!” However, to look young signifies that we are not young. It is because we are not young that we say to each other that we look young.
Aging seems sad. It is sad to yearn for irretrievable, irreplaceable, and dimming youth. However, aging is not all that bad. Aging is ripening. The ending lyrics of the song called ‘Wish’ sung by a Korean singer named SahYoun Noh, pierces through the hearts of those who are aging: “We are not aging but slowly ripening.” As we are gradually ripening, we reach to the peak of life at the moment of full ripening. To ripe means to consummate. We grow, mature, and consummate. Different from an unripe fruit, to consummate signifies of being beautiful, tasteful, and flavorful. J. I. Packer describes the consummation of Christians in the following way:
“Some grow old gracefully, meaning, fully in the grip of the grace of God. Increasingly they display a well-developed understanding with a well-formed character: firm, resilient, and unyielding, with an unfailing sense of proportion and abundant resources for upholding and mentoring others.” (J. I. Packer, Finishing Our Course with Joy, 18)
J. I. Packer exhorts his readers to be spiritual ripening Christians, because he believes that spiritual ripeness is the most worthwhile matter.
“The Bible highlights… that spiritual ripeness is worth far more than material wealth in any form, and that spiritual ripeness should continue to increase as one gets older. The Bible’s view is that aging, under God and by grace, will bring wisdom, that is, an enlarged capacity for discerning, choosing, and encouraging.” (J. I. Packer, Finishing Our Course with Joy, 19)
He exhorts the readers to continue to do two kinds of activities. First is ‘learning.’ He says, “Lifelong learning… is every Christian’s calling.” We have to continuously grow through learning. Second is ‘leading.’ The older must lead the younger. The older adults have the wisdom accumulated in them that they have gained through the education and experiences of life to lead the younger people. In the Bible we encounter mentoring relationships like Moses and Joshua, Elizabeth and Mary, and Paul and Timothy.
I could feel that I’m aging now. And I acknowledge that fact. I think you also feel it too. Although I’m not young, I believe that I am a great blessing to you as I am ripening in life. Let us not be saddened that we are aging, but rather, let us be thankful. We are not aging but gradually ripening. I thank you always for encouraging me and reading my writings with great care.
Reverend Joshua Choon-Min Kang is the senior pastor of New Life Vision Church, located in Los Angeles. This is one of the weekly letters he writes to his congregation. For the original, visit www.nlvc.org.