Before I knew it, I have become quite old. Last week many people celebrated my aging. It is a joy for me to get older. There was a time when I was a little sad about getting older. Especially in my mid-50s, I felt a sense of crisis. If I could hold onto the years, I would have held onto them. It was really hard for me to accept the fact that I was getting older. However, it is not so now. I am living with gratitude and I have embraced the aging process deeply into my heart. It is wise to be able to welcome and love the things that are unavoidable. It is important to know how to grow older.
In my mid-50s, I read lots of books on how to beautifully age because I wanted to become an adult that aged beautifully. We can observe that some people become better, more virtuous, and more mature as they age. The Bible says, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor.” (Proverbs 16:31) The gray hair is the crown of glory filled with the life experience, economy, and wisdom. On the other hand, we see some people become more stubborn, more narrow-minded, and greedier as they become older. Just as there is food that decays or ferments as time passes, we see two different appearances of people getting older. As we age, I wish that we would be beneficial to people like the fermented food, not the decayed food.
As I get older, I meet people who ask me if I want to go back to my young age. My response is that youth is beautiful, but I do not want to go back to my younger days. Life is hard. It is hard to live. I do not want to go back to start that hard life again. Once in a lifetime is enough. Of course, life is hard, but there is a reason to live, and it has great worth. Although life is hard, we can live with a fullness of joy when we live in love. But we have to move forward without looking back. Like four seasons in nature, there are four seasons in our lives. It is wise to love every season of life. As I get older, I have a few wishes in my heart.
First, I want to be a grateful adult. Thanksgiving is the highest peak of spirituality. A sacrifice that pleases God is a sacrifice of thanksgiving. Jesus always lived a grateful life. What God hates the most are resentment and complaining. It is ingratitude (背恩忘德). We receive God’s enormous grace as we live. There is no grace more precious than the one received from believing in Jesus Christ and becoming a child of God. We believe in Jesus and receive eternal life. Heaven is now ours. Even for God’s grace we received thus far, we need to give thanks to God for all of our lives. Thanksgiving brightens up our lives. Thanksgiving is an art of counting all of God’s blessings in our lives. God’s grace always follows those who are grateful.
Second, I want to be a lifelong learning adult. I have tasted and know the joy that learning gives. I have tasted and know how blessed the pleasure of intelligence is. Learning is a holy pleasure. The reason that learning is important is that we can live as adults who dream through learning. Learners are future-oriented people. Therefore, the learner is a dreamer who dreams beyond dreams. Those who dream and learn can live as youths forever. We must be wary of the wrinkles of the heart rather than the wrinkles of the face. The mind of the ever-learning person is always youthful.
Third, I want to be a pious and holy adult. God has recently helped me to have an interest in holiness. Piety and holiness are brothers. God blesses His children through pious and holy parents. Holiness is truly beautiful. Holiness is purity without defilement. So holiness is glorious. Holiness is a sacred charm. In order for us to be holy adults, God must pour out His great grace. We do not become holy by human efforts or legalistic asceticism, but by the grace of God. Of course, it is good to yearn for holiness. But we must not forget that we reach sanctification only thorough God’s grace and help.
Fourth, I want to invest in people before I leave them behind. God cherishes people the most. Jesus raised His disciples for three years and left them behind. I would like to concentrate on the work of raising more people and leaving them with the help of God for the rest of my life. I have to make the most of the time that passes all too quickly. I wish, if I could, to live the rest of my life without any regrets. I sincerely thank you all for blessing and encouraging an aging and insufficient servant.
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.