Monday, March 31, 2008

Age and Idolatry

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GROWING OLDER?

Today is my 34th birthday. Over the weekend my mother remarked, "You're getting old, Jen!" and then in a softer voice, "It's scary." I ignored the comment. There is absolutely nothing more I can say to change her perspective and stop her from saying that year after year. She said it when I was 10. She said it when I was 16. She said it when I was 21. She said it when I was 30. Apparently, it bothers her a great deal that I am aging.

Most folks without Christ and even some who do profess to be Christians have a real problem with growing older. I believe the reason is twofold: a) This culture worships youth. Loss of youthfulness is a threat to one's perceived self-worth because youth is what is valued by the culture. b) Growing older means we are one step closer to death. For many who have not come to accept their own mortality, this is a very uncomfortable truth to be reckoned with. Let's look at both of these issues from a biblical perspective and see if we can come to a different conclusion about aging and dying.


THE IDOL OF YOUTH

The worship of youthfulness is one of the key ways we can assess the condition of our hearts according to the Word of God. The world values youth purely for physical reasons. Young people are considered more attractive, more physically fit, and more open-minded and "lively." The elderly, on the other hand, are often portrayed in the media as being slow, set in their ways, less physically attractive, and dim-witted. But just as with everything else, the Bible takes the way the world sees youth and age and turns these concepts upside down.

According to the Bible, it is age that makes a person more attractive because with age comes great wisdom. Wisdom is a coveted quality in the Bible. Much of the imagery in Proverbs especially asserts the high value the Bible places on the type of wisdom that only comes with experience, but other Scriptures such as the Fifth Commandment also stress the importance of giving honor and respect to our elders. We would think, after spending a lifetime honoring our elders, that we would be happy to actually "graduate" to that status ourselves. But instead of being ecstatic over turning a year older, we lament, "What a drag it is getting old," right alongside the Rolling Stones.

It isn't easy for us to keep their eyes focused on the ways of God instead of the ways of the world, particularly women. The world puts a heavy emphasis on youth as being a prerequisite to beauty. Women have done some torturous things to themselves all in the name of beauty. Each year, millions and millions of dollars are spent by female consumers to thwart the aging process. I'll let you all in on a little secret: It doesn't work! The only way true, lasting beauty can be achieved is when both men and women alike embrace the Bible's formula for attractiveness.

THE IDOL OF LIFE

The second reason why many people fear getting old is because youth is also associated with vitality. The older you are, the closer you are to dying because you are nearing the end of your life. This is true. In fact, every single day, each of us grows one day closer to the appointed time of our death. If this disturbs us, we have to take a hard look at ourselves and ask, "why?"

For some, growing old and dying is a frightening idea. Some of us, as I noted above, are simply uncertain of where we will end up when we die. If you are not sure you will enter heaven upon the event of your death, please click here.

Others are certain they are headed for heaven, but they are still not looking forward to death. There is only one reason why, and I'd like to credit C.J. Mahaney for putting it so brilliantly:

Death is a limit God puts on creatures that wish they were Him.

That is a very pithy statement. Think about that. Death is actually a limit that God puts on us to keep our pride in check. Wow! I bet you never looked at death in that way before, have you? I sure haven't. But it is true. The reason why each and every one of us does not want to die, if we are not so much afraid of death, is because we have absolutely no control over it. There is only One who has the power to call the shots when it comes to death. And we're not Him. Death is a limit God puts on creatures that wish they were Him.

The Bible says that God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This is because we were created in His image. It is natural for us to yearn for immortality, because God is immortal. But because of sin, we cannot handle immortality in a responsible, holy way. For this reason, God has appointed a time for each man to die, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). The good news is, we do have the opportunity to cheat death. There's just one catch: you can't do that without special permission from Jesus Christ.

If you are disappointed over the truth of your own mortality, ask God to search your heart and give you the grace to repent of this sin. This is pride. It is the very sin of Satan, who wanted to be God. Isn't it interesting how the Bible says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever? He never changes. The fact that we age reminds us that we are not eternal.

CONCLUSION

A birthday is not only a celebration of the day of one's birth, but also, a mile marker of grace. Each year that we are permitted to exist on this earth is a gift from God, who has ordained each of our steps from before the dawn of time. We are here for one reason and one reason alone: to glorify God. I think it is interesting how we all recognize God's indescribable beauty, although we've never seen physically seen Him. The shedding of our youth is a divine opportunity for each of us to embrace the true beauty which lies within, and is in direct opposition to the beauty of this world, which is just an illusion. I believe it is also true that God never fully allows us to reach complete sanctification on this earth as a way of setting another limit on us. With each year of life comes a new wrinkle and a few gray hairs, but also the tests and trials that produce the wisdom of a mature faith. Each time you notice your hairline receding, think of it as a way of slowly but surely shedding the superficial exterior to reveal the likeness of Christ that you are cultivating day by day.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Jennifer.

Rita Martinez said...

Jen!!! I didn't know!! Happy belated birthday!! May God bless you with many more years to come!! :D

Geraldine said...

Happy birthday Jen!!!!!!!!!!!! I thank God for you! XXX

Wretched said...

Wow you don't look 34. Happy ever-so-slightly-belated one-day-more-wise day! I'm glad you were born. You've been a blessing to me through this blog and though we've talked in person for...what?...4 minutes? I sincerely appreciate you and hope you had a great day. May God continue to bless you and keep you and shine His face upon you.

Geraldine said...

I used to fear growing old. I think it was because i both feared death and that i fell for the worlds lies about youth and beauty. This all has it's roots in my own sins.
Now i pray that i will have the privilidge of growing old with wisdom. I couldn't imagine growing old and trying to stay young both at heart and appearance and lacking inner beauty of Godliness and wisdom.
That sub-heading 'the idol of life' says it all! It really can beocome an idol! And i do not say this judgmentally because it was once an idol i held very dear. Actually it wasn';t until recently i had to let this idol go. I just had to because with it brough anxiety, worry, pride and so many more sins. Those sins still surface in other ways but i had to give up the idol of life.
I guess now instead of thinking i am one day closer to death i can think of it as one day closer to being with my Lord and Savior, the lover of my soul, Jesus!

Kurt said...

I feel bad that I missed this post on your birthday. Happy Belated Birthday to you Jen!

Jennifer said...

Thank you everyone for your well wishes! I stand amazed that God would bless you through this little ol' blog. It has been a privilege to serve you through writing it. Thanks again for visiting!