Introductory Note:

Author Alice Fryling has written an article for Renovaré readers about how to find God’s invitations hidden within the uncertainties and disruptions of growing older. Her article is a wonderful reminder that we ought not retire from spiritual formation; the later years of life hold rich and challenging invitations from the Holy One for our continual renewal.

Grace Pouch
Content Manager

The sum­mer I turned 75, I asked myself, Who am I now that I am 75 years old?” With each birth­day to fol­low, I’ve added more questions:

Is get­ting old­er chang­ing who I am? 

How are my rela­tion­ships chang­ing, includ­ing my rela­tion­ship with God? 

What do I do with the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty and dimin­ish­ment I feel? 

Is there any­thing I like about this?

These are the same ques­tions many old­er peo­ple ask. As the ques­tions per­co­late with­in us, we can offer our uncer­tain­ty to God as prayer. God responds to us not with easy answers, but with invi­ta­tions to be transformed. 

God invites us to focus more on fruit­ful­ness than on pro­duc­tiv­i­ty.

Most of us have had pro­duc­tive lives. We have had busy careers, cared for our fam­i­lies, and been active in our church­es. Now oth­ers are tak­ing over our jobs. Few­er peo­ple ask for our opin­ion. Often our chil­dren are tak­ing care of us. It is painful to let go of accom­plish­ments that can be mea­sured and com­pli­ment­ed. It takes the ongo­ing expe­ri­ence of trans­for­ma­tion to learn to choose and to enjoy fruit­ful­ness over productivity.

The fruit of the Spir­it is love, joy, peace, for­bear­ance, kind­ness, good­ness, faith­ful­ness, gen­tle­ness, and self-con­trol (Gala­tians 5:22 – 23, NIV). As we age, the Spir­it con­tin­ues to bear fruit in our lives, but it may look a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. We find our­selves lov­ing oth­ers usu­al­ly more by lis­ten­ing than by doing. We may be sur­prised to dis­cov­er that we seem to be a peace­ful pres­ence even when chaos is all around us. Even more sur­pris­ing, we may dis­cov­er that we can be kind when we used to be crit­i­cal and angry.

Learn­ing to focus on fruit­ful­ness will not hap­pen if we do not accept the gen­tle invi­ta­tion to be trans­formed. Trans­for­ma­tion is some­thing that hap­pens to us but does not hap­pen with­out us. The Holy Spir­it will not cajole us or force us into a new way of being. As we age, we are invit­ed to be patient while God bears fruit in our lives.

God invites us to notice the Spirit’s qui­et work in our inner being.

Notic­ing God at work in us will mean that we need to be inten­tion­al­ly self-aware. We may have ignored our­selves for most of our lives, but it is nev­er too late to begin pay­ing atten­tion. What emo­tions are invad­ing our rela­tion­ships? What thoughts do we have about the events of each day? When do we feel clos­est to God? When do we feel most dis­tant from God? Ques­tions like these may be new for us, but they are important. 

God has been at work in us all our lives, but we may have been too busy to notice. Now, per­haps more than at any oth­er time of life, we can embrace the truth that even though on the out­side it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is mak­ing new life, not a day goes by with­out his unfold­ing grace” (2 Corinthi­ans 4:16, MSG). We will want to notice where we embrace unfold­ing grace and where we long for more transformation.

God invites us to expe­ri­ence Scrip­ture in new ways.

Many of us have a long his­to­ry with Scrip­ture, but now we may notice that things are chang­ing. When I was young, I was hun­gry for the Bible. I read Scrip­ture, I attend­ed Bible stud­ies (a lot!), I lis­tened to speak­ers. I became a speak­er myself. I couldn’t get enough of it all.

Now, instead of read­ing chap­ters I read para­graphs. Or, truth be told, on most days I think deeply about only one or two vers­es. Many of these vers­es come from the ones I stud­ied and mem­o­rized as a young per­son. The Word of God has stayed alive and active” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV) through­out my life.

As we change the way we read Scrip­ture, we will prob­a­bly notice fresh insights and appli­ca­tions. Some of us may feel that we bare­ly under­stood these vers­es when we first read them. Per­haps the truths behind the words were too much for us then. Jesus said to his dis­ci­ples, I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spir­it of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:12 – 13, NIV). In this sea­son of life, the Spir­it whis­pers deep­er and deep­er truths to us as we read famil­iar vers­es. The Bible con­tin­ues to be a lamp for our feet and a light on our paths (Psalm 119:105NIV).

God invites us to find grace in the losses.

All my life I have been a per­son who meets needs, fix­es things, and express­es love by prac­ti­cal engage­ment. But now I don’t have the ener­gy, the exper­tise, or the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do many of those things. We all expe­ri­ence loss­es like this. We may have enjoyed live­ly careers, cared for our fam­i­lies, and been active in our church­es. Now oth­ers are tak­ing over our jobs. Few­er peo­ple ask for our opin­ion. Often our chil­dren are tak­ing care of us. 

We each have our own way of describ­ing what we feel as our lives seem to dimin­ish. I have felt guilt; oth­er peo­ple tell me they feel angry or resent­ful. Most of us are dis­ap­point­ed about the many ways we are falling apart. It is painful to let go of accom­plish­ments that can be mea­sured and com­pli­ment­ed. It takes the ongo­ing expe­ri­ence of trans­for­ma­tion to see the grace God has for us in the losses. 

God invites us to delight in weak­ness­es” (2 Corinthi­ans 12:10, NIV). As dif­fi­cult as this verse is to believe, per­haps our weak­ness­es allow God more free­dom to work in and through us. Jesus said, You’re blessed when you’ve lost it all. God’s king­dom is there for the find­ing” (Luke 6:20 MSG). This may be one of the rea­sons God has allowed us to grow old.

God invites us to put down our bur­dens.

Isa­iah wrote that the peo­ple of Judah and Jerusalem car­ried idols that were a bur­den for the weary” (Isa­iah 46:1, NIV). We do not car­ry idols made of gold, but we have, nev­er­the­less, brought idols into our senior years. We car­ry the idol of what peo­ple think of us. We car­ry all the stuff” we thought would make us hap­py. We car­ry the bur­den of need­ing to be right and the bur­den of enti­tle­ment. But now we are invit­ed to put down these bur­dens. Does it real­ly mat­ter if I am not in charge? Is it a ter­ri­ble thing that my chil­dren are mak­ing dif­fer­ent choic­es than I would? Why did I get all this stuff to begin with? Do I real­ly need to do every­thing and have every­thing that I thought was so important? 

We can begin to hold pos­ses­sions and ambi­tions and sta­tus more loose­ly by hear­ing God’s encour­ag­ing words to Isa­iah: Lis­ten to me … you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have car­ried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sus­tain you. I have made you and I will car­ry you; I will sus­tain you and I will res­cue you” (Isa­iah 46:3 – 4NIV). 

These vers­es remind us of the many invi­ta­tions of this sea­son of life. As we accept our own invi­ta­tions from God — to be known, to be car­ried, and to be sus­tained and res­cued — we will be trans­formed as we age, one day at a time.

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Text First Published October 2021 · Last Featured on Renovare.org October 2021

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