I’m sorry to report that a couple of my generation’s heroes are not doing well in their sixth and seventh decades. I am not referring to their health issues or physical appearances. Wrinkles, gray hair (or no hair), or a few extra pounds are to be expected and not worth mentioning. I’m talking about a verbal public brawl between former friends that’s strikingly ugly, even for non-Christians.
Irish author Oscar Wilde said, “Wisdom comes with winters,” but I’m not seeing that in recent news stories about a couple of musical icons whose names I will not mention. What I’m reading suggests that poet Maya Angelou may have been closer to the truth when she said, “Most people don't grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.”
To be more specific, the news reports involve two guys who have been musical cohorts for nearly half a century but are now lashing out at one another in the nastiest kind of way. There’s name calling that can’t be printed in this blog, charges of lying in a memoir, snarky remarks about another friend’s pending divorce and new girlfriend, and blame for the breakup of a decades-old musical group.
And it’s hard to miss the irony that these greatly gifted guys were – and still are – among leading spokesmen of the peace-and-love generation.
I’m not so much surprised as saddened. After all, these aging celebrities are without the Holy Spirit who would enable them to know the love and forgiveness of Christ – the One who willingly took the blame for the sins of His people when He Himself was blameless. That kind of selfless love is unknown in their world, as far as I can tell, and makes the “peace-and-love” sentiment that my generation proposed as the remedy for what ails humanity seem silly and naive.
But in reading the account of the nastiness, the thing that struck me is that at times some of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus – myself included – also are capable of exhibiting an arrogant blindness to our own sin.
I have a theory about that. It’s not based on Scripture, but then again, I don’t think it’s contrary to Scripture either. My theory is this: As we grow older, our worst personality traits grow more dominant unless they are intentionally and consistently checked by God’s Word.
For example, a need for control and order can turn into an uncooperative insistence that my way is always the best way. A sense of superiority or victimization in younger years can lead to a disdain for anyone outside our social circle as we grow older. Impatience now can turn into out-of-control anger issues that break vital relationships. A general propensity to worry can lead to great fearfulness and distrust of God in our older years. The list is endless because our sin is endless.
And if you need some help identifying your weaknesses, just ask your spouse, children, or a close friend. Hopefully, they will be gentle. And if that doesn’t work, read the section (beginning around Q/A 100) in the Westminster Larger Catechism that details the duties required and sins forbidden by each of the Ten Commandments. It will make you want to climb under a rock, or rather, The Rock.
So, what can be done to resist a downward slide in older age?
Here are my thoughts. I’d like to hear yours, so add them to the comments below.
- As you grow older, make even greater use of the ordinary means of grace that God has provided His church including:
• Consistently availing yourself of the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
• Spending time reading and meditating on the Scripture every day.
• Praying more and more earnestly.
• Participating in the sacraments – there is grace to be found there.
• Taking opportunities to fellowship with other believers.
- Know the children and their parents in your church. Don’t skip their special events just because your kids are grown now.
- Worship with people of all ages. Sing and embrace songs that are not necessarily in your favorite style.
- As long as you can, faithfully attend and participate in worship.
- Learn to use the myriad of new media discipleship resources like sermons, podcasts, blogs, and more found on the Internet. It’s easy … really.
- Begin to focus on your real home – heaven. Like all things in this life, that day will arrive sooner than expected. A good place to start is We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon’s Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven by Randy Alcorn.