Faith & Worship: Older and wiser

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, May 10, 2017

You’ve heard the saying, “Growing old is not for sissies.” If you are of a certain age, you know the truth of those words. If you are younger, you may not know the meaning of these words, at least not in the same ways, but the truth is that everyone is getting older, even if we might not think about it much. And sooner or later we will experience some of the challenges of aging.

We will all move slower and lose abilities we once took for granted. We will all experience personal losses and physical challenges. We will sense the limits of life and the reality of our mortality. What do we do with those feelings?

Sometimes we ignore them, and even deny them in our heroic attempts to preserve youth. Sometimes we mask those feelings in a whirlwind of activity and achievement. Sometimes we mask them with food, drink, and medications. Occasionally though we find another way.

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In my eight years living here in Tryon, I have had the opportunity to share in the lives of many people who have known first hand that “growing old is not for sissies.” Facing all kinds of challenges, they consistently have found ways to rise above them with humor and perseverance. They can joke about their walkers, and make fun of their bad hearing, or their forgetfulness. They seem to be able to wade through the challenges they face with a smile on their face, and a good word for others, at least most of the time. They volunteer to help others. They share their lives, and their resources with a reckless generosity. Having dealt with a multitude of different life situations in their own families, they are accepting of others and willing to help those who are struggling.

With a wisdom that comes from decades of experience, they know a lot, and at the same time have an uncanny sense of respect and the importance of letting the other person learn for themselves. Although many of these saints are well into their nineties, some are just precocious thirty-somethings who have had to face exceptional challenges.

What so many of these people seem to share is a passion for living life as fully as possible, and a deep and faithful sense of trust in a future that they cannot predict, and a wise appreciation of life’s opportunities and limits. They are feisty, fun, and wise, and live their lives with courage, and compassion, and grace. Saints like these can be found in any church or community. What I am amazed at is the number of them I have encountered here in Tryon and Polk County. Every day I am both inspired and humbled by their wisdom.

Recently I had opportunity to share in the memorial service for one of these saints. I had had opportunity to know her well, and because we were both of Irish heritage (like 34 million other Americans), we shared some of the indomitable spirit and humor of the Irish.

At her memorial service, I shared an Irish blessing that I wrote. Afterward I realized that the blessing that I shared was not just for her, but for all the “saints of great experience” that I have encountered here in Tryon. So whatever your age, or situation, may this blessing, this prayerful intention, become true for you.

May the light of your soul surround you, always.

May all your worries about aging be transformed into a new vision for life.

May the wisdom of God go with you,

That you might see your life, in all its blessing and sorrow, as a time of gracious harvest and celebration.

May you have the courage to face and heal what has hurt you.

May your dignity grow even as your abilities diminish.

And your sense of freedom expand even within the limits of your life.

May the eternal light of the creator shine in your heart.

And may his gracious hand guide you to that distant shore.

-Pastor Dent Davis, Tryon Presbyterian Church