There is a day coming up in the next couple of weeks I’m dreading. Every year for the last few I’ve dreaded this particular day. It reminds me of something I’d rather not be reminded of.
I’m getting older.
Last year I turned 40. In ten days I will be 41.
I have only realised the dread it fills me with since I hit 35 and I realised that the 3 score and ten years noted by Moses were half up.
And I swear they get shorter as I get older.
My best friend is several years younger than me, as are most of my colleagues, which sometimes helps me feel younger than my yeaars – a good thing. Then something comes up in conversation which reminds me I’m not in my 20’s any more.
I’ve developed an addiction to the TV series Bones, and find I would like to liken myself to the male lead, Booth, played by David Boreanaz. Booth is a senior FBI agent and trained army ranger who specialised as a sniper. Aside from being roughly the same age I actually have nothing in common with Booth, but I identify anyway. I was a reasonable marksman at my school with a rifle, and have learned to fire pistols since leaving, but not to the character’s level of expertise.
Where I identify is in the areas not work related.
Booth is in his early 40’s, and because of combat his body has taken it’s share of punishment. I ride a motorcycle, and have picked a fight with the planet a few times, so I have some aches and pains. I never managed to serve in the RAF as I hoped to growing up because my introductory medical revealed that, whilst at that point I was physically resilient enough to fly, not being able to see the eye examination chart made it impossible for me to continue in my preferred role as pilot, or any of my back-up roles as they all required 20/20 eyesight.
This still didn’t stop me identifying with Booth, especially in one episode he asks how it was he went to bed as Han Solo and woke up as Obi-Wan Kenobi…
Now don’t misunderstand me here. I actually don’t mind getting older mostly. My hair is slowly being replaced with a solar panel, and my 52 inch chest and shoulders have slipped down and become a 40 inch waist, but I’m working on that now. I was told I had diabetes a few years ago, which I’m controlling and (with a LOT of Spiritual help) fully expect to be able to see reversed in the next 2 years.
What I dread about my birthday is not the day itself. It’s the value this world places on youth. Every year it gets harder for me to find a new employer because there’s someone ten years younger who’ll do the job for half the price because they don’t realise how much power they can control in an interview.
The Bible says to revere our elders. Today’s Western and pseudo-Western philosophy reviles them. I am regularly told I’m too old to apply for certain jobs, not because I’m physically incapable, but because they need someone who speaks modern technobabble, which I’m not even certain I can spell.
I re-watched one of my favourite movies yesterday, Space Cowboys. Clint Eastwood, Donald Sutherland, Tommy-Lee Jones and James Garner sent into space to fix a satellite that has a programming language none of the youngsters at NASA can understand. Age is no barrier to them as they essentially use the wisdom of age to con their way into the shuttle program by managing to fool medical staff, fitness assessors and the managers of the program. I love the movie because their age is what makes them valuable. It’s simply impossible for a younger person to fix the problem.
The world loves it in a movie – old and wily guys putting one over on the boss – but in real life it doesn’t happen. It was fun to see Stallone, Schwazenegger, Willis, Norris, Van Damme, et al poking fun at themselves in Expendables 2, but who in real life these days would hire a bunch of guys over 50 when they can get guys of 30?
The issue is that the story appeals to us because it’s in our hearts. We want to be revered for our wisdom gained through blood, sweat and years of work. It’s hardwired into the God-given soul of every human on the planet. But the enemy is subtle, or actually not so much.
A wounded animal is dangerous, far more so than an uninjured one. And an animal that can feel the end is close becomes ferocious. My wife was badly bitten by a dog she tried to save after it was hit by a car outside our home. It went on to chew up her cellphone (and hand again) and then finally the basket the local SPCA inspector tried to put it in to take it for emergency treatment. Sadly the dog died before it got to the vet.
In these days, Satan has robbed us of 2 consecutive generations of fathers. World War 1 and 2 eliminated many of the men who would have gone on to be sages in their communities, and scarred many of the others who survived so badly they simply were unable to fill this vital role.
As a result there was a generation born in the 1940’s and 50’s who were fatherless and had to work it out themselves because fathers and grandfathers were either emotionally or physically not there. The result was the “free love” generation of the 60’s and the following downhill slide of Western society through the 70’s up to today. Society demands men be men, but does not teach us how.
I was Blessed in than both my grandfathers came through WW2 intact, mum’s dad in the army and dad’s in the Salvation Army as part of the Home Front. They played a major role in my life as a child and into adolescence before mum’s dad died and then into my mid 20’s when Grandad died. As a result, I was able to learn from them and see how not only my own father treated his family, friends and even adversaries, but also how they did. I have a quick temper, but I have learned through their example to curb it.
Grandad was 80 when he died. He was Deputy Bandmaster at his local Salvation Army Corps in Wimborne, Dorset – he refused to accept the post of bandmaster, despite there not being anyone to take the role as he had no formal musical education. We spoke 2 weeks before he died, and I am still trying to assimilate everything he told me in that one conversation. He “retired” technically, but for almost 20 years afterwards until the day he died – literally – he went out on a daily basis selling copies of The War Cry, and talking to anyone who would ask about Jesus and Salvation. Children loved him. Older folk – over 35 – loved him as well, but there was an age range he told me where they had known him as children, then after they hit about 18 he would lose touch until they looked him up again between the age of 30-35.
Our dreaded days are the years we lose because this world tries to cheat us out of them. We are not old enough to be considered elders, and too old to be “useful” in the modern workplace. When I was talking to a friend recently about a project God is building, the comment was made that it was nice to have someone more mature giving their experience and input into the venture. I agreed, then realised it was me being referred to. We both laughed about it, but I still feel like Booth. I woke up one morning to find my youth has gone – and now I’m Obi-Wan!
Perhaps I shouldn’t dread the times coming now though. Whether Christ returns now or in a thousand years, this is the last generation I can reach personally.
In retrospect, God has guided me through storms and tempests for over 40 years. I trust Him to do so in the future as well. So I’ll rest.
No fear. No dread. Just the peace in the midst of the turmoil that I’m being held by the One who can make a difference to any life at any age.