How can one stay current even as they move into the last two decades of their lives? I do not mind growing older – who can avoid it? – but I don’t want to be one of those older folks who holds others back. It seems many older folks are oblivious to what is going on around them and, therefore, become less and less relevant, practical, and helpful. The following counsel is from an octogenarian that I have known for many years. I met him when I was in college (he was a friend of my father’s.) He has walked a consistent and authentic walk in life and ministry over the years. You may not agree with everything he says here but it is all worth thinking about.
SECRETS TO STAYING ON THE “CUTTING EDGE:”
No one will ever convince me that growing older and duller necessarily go together. The old bod tells me that I am growing older (then there’s Vin Scully, five years older than I and still doing play-by-play for the L. A. Dodgers), but the mind is still at least marginally functional. I work with and am around people the age of my children (and younger) very frequently (our church is multi-generational), and I don’t want to loose that certain edge. Here are ten of my suggestions for staying sharp while growing older.
1. Keep on dreaming. I know he is as annoying as all get out, but “Dickie” Vitale, who is 75, wants to be the first broadcaster to do live play-by-play when he is one hundred. Now that’s a dream. When all your dreams have come true, you had better get some new ones. There are still things I want to do and accomplish before the Lord takes me home (I’ll spare you the list). Here’s a neat little outline on dreams: dare to dream; prepare the dream; wear the dream; repair the dream and share the dream.
2. Keep in touch. I always try to talk with some of the younger people (and that includes some in their teens) every opportunity I have. I also try to do something very difficult for a man my age (especially one with hearing problems), I try to listen. Although at this point a hearing aid is in the dream realm, I don’t want to be the guy about whom someone – I think it was his wife – once said, “I wonder why he has that hearing aid, he never listens anyhow.” Spend time with people. Do what Jesus did – walk slowly through the crowd.
3. Keep growing internally. Let’s face it, the standard of greatness keeps rising, but the means to achieve it is also rising at an even faster pace. Get around great people. Listen to great videos, visit great places (when possible), attend great events, read great books. Try Tim Keller’s Center Church – if that doesn’t give you a brain freeze, it will give you a ton of things to think about.
4. Forget the fear factor: Fear is the thief of dreams. There is always more lost in what we don’t do because of fear than in what we actually do. I’m not sure the battle with fear is ever over, even if it’s just the fear of being considered an old boor.
5. Focus on recruiting, mentoring, etc., leaders to eventually take your place. I think it was John Maxwell who said that leaders who last, recruit and mentor strong leaders. What are you doing to leave behind a legacy of shared insights, constant encouragement, lessons learned? That’s one of the reasons why there is a Woodchuck’s Den. I don’t know a whole lot about a whole lot of things, but I have been there, done that, and am more than willing to share the consequences of a whole lot, whether good or bad!
6. Ah yes, fatigue. I tire more easily than I once did, and it takes me longer to get it back together than it once did (and sometimes even longer to remember where I put it after I had it all together), but He promised me that my strength would be sufficient for my days. I have previously quoted the profound wisdom of Warren Wiersbe, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.” And sometimes that’s all I need to get back after it again.
7. Watch your priorities. Sure, there’s a tendency to meander in life, but things that matter most must never be subordinated to things that matter least. As our days grow shorter (and that is true of everyone), we need to prioritize such things as money, time, people, activities, gifts, to say nothing of family. Just this exercise might well prove difficult enough to keep you on the cutting edge (be careful that you don’t get “cut” on that family thing. Grand kids are great, (and great grands even greater), but be careful of the priorities.
8. Keep the big picture in mind. We get so wrapped up in who we are, what we are doing, how people are treating us, etc., that we sometimes forget that it really isn’t all about us. God’s work on earth is vast (one of the reasons I struggle with those content to stay in little denominational or positional boxes), and I want to be involved in it as long as I possibly can be. By-the-way, hopefully, your church won’t close the day you leave it.
9. Be open to change – there I said it, and I meant to say it, and I’m glad I said it!!! My doctrine hasn’t changed a bit over the years, but a whole lot of others things have because I live in a world that is constantly changing. Change itself is neither good nor bad, but part of staying on that cutting edge is keeping abreast of what is changing, evaluating it and making a decision regarding it. I’m a bit weary of people my age who have an automatic negative reaction to change. For instance – and I’ve said this before – I don’t like all of the new music, but I didn’t like all of the old music either, and I love some of the talented kids that are involved in the new music. May I make a suggestion? How about concentrating on the words instead of the instruments, repetitions, unfamiliar (and sometimes, un-singable) tunes.
10. Beware of hidden private sin. Just because you are no longer the lead man doesn’t mean that you have a certain quota of sin that you are allowed without offending God. Yes, we’re physically immune to some of the more fleshly lusts, but our often insufficiently occupied minds are fertile grounds for the devil to work.
And a final, unnumbered word: be careful in keeping on the cutting edge that you don’t fall off the edge. More than one of God’s older servants has done something later in life that has destroyed much of what he spent his life building. And if you are a younger whipper-snapper, don’t hesitate to share these thoughts with your older members and blaming them on me.