Welcome to the first in the “Aging with…” series, ingredients for aging well.
In order to age with a positive outlook you must be adaptable. It’s vital. This sounds very obvious and straight forward but for many folks it’s just not that simple. It’s hard to change our thinking. Our longtime comfort zone, both physically and mentally, is a much easier place to be even if detrimental. It feels like we are continuously in a battle to adjust. Life often beats us down and we forget to remind ourselves that flexibility is key especially as we age.
The world is changing. That’s a fact. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. It’s not the same place it was when we were young. Circumstances, places and people have all shifted and turned from where they once were. There are macro changes we see all around us in climate, in governments and in attitudes. And micro changes occur on a personal level as we mature. We notice our digestion takes a turn, our knees creak, our abode is now too massive to keep up, and some dear family members or friends have passed on. It’s a lot. Even our finances can topple us if we are not very careful. All of this and more can drag us down. If you find this too daunting and overwhelming you may be in trouble.
Do you find yourself constantly going back to reminisce or relive the past so much so that you cannot move forward? Being adaptable is all about the ability to live in the now, the present moment, the current time in your life. If you are an adaptable person you are a glass half full sort.
I can’t think of anyone more adaptable and flexible than the apostle Paul. His job, his mission, as a Christian was not thwarted by prison, floggings, shipwrecks and more. His determination and resolve to keep moving ahead no matter what came his way is utterly amazing! No one exemplifies this trait more than he does. (Acts 9)
Paul was the most unlikely Christian. That he even became a Christian is almost absurd! After all, he had actively persecuted Christians, even hunting them down. But then he had a Jesus encounter and was never the same! Now suddenly a Christian himself, he was compelled to spread the Gospel. Here Paul demonstrates the first trait of an adaptable person. Paul was willing despite what he had been in the past and despite what people thought of his conversion. He immediately moved into his current assignment. Deep inside he knew he’d been transformed and he had to get the Word out there. He would not be deterred. He had one focus and one goal. A flexible person has to be willing to move. This requires both physical and mental agility. When Paul met Jesus personally he could have hid himself away especially since the very people he had pursued would undoubtedly be extremely skeptical, to say the least, and very wary of him but he made himself available to God’s call. In Galatians 1:18 we read that Paul spent 3 years before going on to Jerusalem after his conversion. I suspect that during this time he remained the studious and curious person he always was yet this time learning from Jesus what it meant to preach the Gospel, time well spent.
Paul was not afraid to fail. I venture to say he didn’t even entertain the thought of not accomplishing his task, let alone fail at it. After becoming a Christian Paul instantly had many enemies, yet he was tenacious in his mission. I often think that because he had encountered Jesus in such a supernatural way on the road to Damascus, he felt he was fortified with Divine Courage. We never again really see Paul as terrified (Acts 9:6) or trembling as he was at that initial encounter. Once the Lord gave Paul his marching orders he never looked back. In verse 16 God even pointed out to Paul that he would suffer but onward he went anyway. We do suffer throughout our lives. This is undeniable and inevitable… but we are never alone. We can adapt, unafraid, if we place our trust in our Father.
Paul kept the big picture in mind. He had a lot of ground to cover to get the Gospel message out. He went on 3 mission trips and was arrested at least 3 times, beaten 3 times, shipwrecked 3 times and stoned once…but he didn’t quit! (2 Corinthians 11:25) Wow! In Acts 16:16-40 we even see that he could have escaped from jail in one instance after an earthquake shook his shackles loose but he didn’t. In fact, he and Silas were in jail singing! Imagine being that positive, that certain of your mandate despite your dire circumstances. Incredible!
When Paul appealed to Caesar he demonstrated his resourcefulness. He realized that his captors didn’t know he was a Roman citizen and that by appealing to Caesar he may have a better chance since then only Caesar himself could make the ruling in Paul’s case. At the very least it bought him more time.
The Bible has a lot to say about being adaptable which validates its importance. In Romans12:2 we are admonished not to be conformed to this world but rather to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. And how do we renew our minds? By shedding the old: the old patterns, the old thinking, the old processes, and taking on the new.
God has given us the tool of adaptability. Incredibly in James 1:2-3 we are informed that we should count it all joy when we face trials! Now that seems like a super long shot to me but if Paul can sing while in prison after all he’d been through then that level of adaptability is something I’ve decided I want to strive for!