The Paper Pulpit
A few years ago a survey asked people who were ninety-five years old and beyond what they would do differently if they could live their lives over. Both men and women who have passed their ninety-fifth birthday have had enough experience facing life’s challenges to answer that question capably. One senior citizen announced that he had reached the “metallic age” — gold in his teeth, silver in his hair and lead in his pants.
Since I am a lot closer to being ninety-five years of age than I used to be, this senior citizen survey grabbed my attention big time. Here are the top three changes the ninety-five-year-olds said they would make if they could live their lives over:
They Would Reflect More. In other words, they would spend more time getting away from the daily grind in order to thoughtfully examine the direction and meaning of their lives. In doing so, they would make certain the energy they were expending was going toward worthwhile causes.
When we are young we find it easy to become so involved with the regular and necessary daily responsibilities of life — family duties, job, relationships, civic involvements, etc. — that we fail to take time for evaluation and reflection. The result of doing this is that we become reactive rather than proactive.
Without regular reflection on where we are, what we are doing and why, and on where we are going, life tends to lock us into a rut. One of my college professors at Mercer University in Macon, Ga., sixty years ago defined a rut as “a grave with both ends knocked out.” This is a fairly accurate definition, wouldn’t you say? Life lived in a rut, by necessity, becomes both monotonous and devoid of joy.
They Would Risk More. Given another chance, the ninety-five year-olds in the survey said they would be more courageous about stepping out of their comfort zones. They would take more risks in order to raise their accomplishment level. This would make their lives more interesting. Christopher Columbus would never have discovered the western world if he had not taken the risk of sailing across the broad Atlantic Ocean.
There are lots of worthwhile adventures waiting for anyone who is willing to step out on faith. I read recently of an elderly bachelor in Kentucky who fell in love. He asked his doctor to give him a shot of cortisone so he could propose on bended knee. At his age, proposing to a lady was a totally new challenge. It involved a risk, but look what he would have missed if he had not been willing to take it.
Accepting new challenges is good advice for anyone — no matter how young or old they may be. So, what about you? Why not decide to become more committed to serving God through the doors that are daily open to you? This life offers you the only opportunity you will ever have to do that.
There is only one way you will be able to experience the exciting adventures that are currently available — you must choose to accept them. Nobody can choose for you. Even though it will be easy for you to remain in your comfort zone, you must climb out on the limb of faith. It is the only way God can fulfill His promises to guide, protect and use you in the building of His kingdom on the earth. Staying in a rocking chair will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.
They Would Do More Things that Would Outlive Them. How many of the things to which you are currently committed, and which consume a sizeable proportion of your time, will live on beyond your lifetime to bless other people? Whatever your age may currently be, you would do well to give some thought to this question.
The impact of the investments you make in the lives of those who follow you is important. But think also of the impact in heaven. Will there be anyone in heaven whose presence there resulted from the influence you had on their lives? If not, you need to make some changes in your priorities. Imagine the joy of one day meeting friends in heaven who wouldn’t be there were it not for your influence.
One of the best things about growing old is that it takes a long time. Even if you are a young whippersnapper, old age will arrive more quickly than you expect. All you have to do is wake up one morning and you’ve got it. But know this: The only thing worse than growing old is to be denied the privilege.
There is a way to grow old and enjoy every day of it — keep taking on new thoughts and throwing off old habits. People who say you can’t teach old dogs new tricks have apparently forgotten that they are human beings, not members of the canine family.
Do you like the three suggestions given by the senior citizens in the above-mentioned survey? If so, please don’t wait until you are in your nineties to adopt them. If you start now, life will provide you with twenty-four hours of joy every day until you are a hundred — should you live that long!
The Rev. D.E. Parkerson is retired pastor of First Baptist Church of Sanford.