In North American culture, aging is often associated with a loss of competence, dignity, and even value. Today’s older adults often are made to feel like the skinny kid on the sideline while teams are being picked—hoping desperately to be chosen but certain no one wants him. It is difficult for senior adults to maintain a positive attitude when they feel unwanted and forced out of the mainstream of society, the local church, or a mission organization like One Mission Society (OMS).
When believers allow their thoughts about aging to align with the prevailing culture, it is easy for younger people in the church to cut off older adults. Severed seniors cannot survive long when separated from the body of Christ.
What steps can be taken to promote healthy attitudes in churches and mission organizations like OMS to promote healthy attitudes toward growing older?
- Keep growing in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even when your body slows down, your spiritual life can still soar to new heights as you seek to know God more intimately. As you grow older, may you grow sweeter!
- Promote intergenerational interaction. Plan a youth event to help senior adults with projects they need to get done. Organize an evening where the senior adults prepare a meal for the youth, then challenge them to table games.
- Understand many younger people are yearning for coaches and mentors to encourage them, pray with and for them, and challenge them to go to the next level in their personal walk with God. Risk engaging as a friend, even a coach or mentor.
- Take to heart this prayer: Lord, you know better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from getting talkative, and particularly from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to try to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details. Give me wings to get to the point. I ask for grace enough to listen to the tales of other’s pains. Help me endure them with patience. But seal my lips on my own aches and pain--they are increasing and my love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken. Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be an embittered, negative saint--some of them are so hard to live with, but a sour senior saint is one of the crowning works of the devil. Make me thoughtful, but not moody; helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom, it seems a pity not to use it all--but you know, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end. (adapted from Little Book of Prayers by an anonymous Mother Superior)
To the older people in OMS, to dear missionaries in their sunset years, you can know with certainty your life is significant. God made you out of the love that he is. Working with you is a privilege and joy. You are one of God’s chosen children, and at OMS we are grateful for you!
By Bob Fetherlin, President, One Mission Society