February 10, 2007

Pefection in old age

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless’” (Genesis 17:1)

As I watch seniors (those older than I am) in their walk with God, it appears that some of them ‘retire’ at some point. They drift away from an active faith and settle into an unhappy gripe about old age, lack of hair, teeth, and mobility, and yearn for the good old days. This bothers me. It is part of the reason for my goal to become a “sweet little old lady” (meaning someone who happily trusts the Lord and is a blessing to everyone).

Maybe I’ve been too hard on them. Someday, particularly if I reach ninety-nine years, I might have aching joints, no hair or teeth, and lots of reasons to just quit. I might even wish my life would soon be over so I could get out of this present discomfort and enjoy the ‘no more pain and sorrow’ of eternity. While I don’t want to be like that, I do understand how it happens.

In contrast, Abram, at ninety-nine, was being challenged to walk with God blamelessly. This man, who had been promised a son, was no April colt. His wife was past the age of child-bearing, and yet that son was not yet born. They were old, not nearly as strong as they had been in their youth, yet God asked Abram to keep going, to be mature, to walk perfectly.

While I first thought about the maturity that should come with age, my devotional book reminded me of the perfection that is found in weakness, even the physical weakness that goes with being ninety-nine. Abram was asked to stay close to God, not because he had matured, but because he was now weak and totally unable to do anything in his own strength. Someone once told me that is exactly the place where God wants all of us, regardless of our age.

So God keeps rounding out my definition of ‘sweet little old lady.’ This time the emphasis is on ‘little’ at least in the sense of ‘little’ in power and ability. As God says in 2 Corinthians 12, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

At this point in my life, this is an encouragement. I’ve learned that lesson many times. I know that when I am confident that “I can do it”—whatever I do will not be in the power of the Lord or have lasting significance. I’m learning, like Paul, to “boast in my infirmities” for it is then “that the power of Christ may rest upon me . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Right now, my joints ache only a little, my hair and teeth are still intact, and I do have some ambitions, but none of those things are important. The world might retire people at certain ages, but the story of Abram shows me that God doesn’t have the same retirement plan. He will not put me out to pasture if I want to stay in the harness, unless of course I insist on pulling the load all by myself. I know the reality of being strong in weakness, and trust that the weakness of growing older will not diminish my capacity to serve God. He supplies the strength, and with Abram, I want to walk before Him and be blameless, not lose interest and just quit.

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