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Being Senior

Many fine aspects of aging are seldom discussed or given their fair due. We often try to change the word senior because of the increasingly sour cultural connotations. We search for alternative, less derogatory terms like second-halfers, empty nesters, mature adults, and more. I say why not embrace “senior” and shift the common paradigm.

But in order to do that we seniors ourselves have to be convinced of the advantages of aging and finally let go of the negative grip it seems to have. There is so much hype about staying young that we dread the coming long fingers of time as they reach out for our hand. It’s hard to get away from this so our expectations of diminished capacity both mentally and physically slowly become entrenched in our thinking.

However, the stats simply do not bear this out. Look it up. More people are living longer, a lot longer, and many a lot healthier than ever before. While different cultures vastly differ in their approach to aging we must agree that it is not all downhill our lives deflating like a balloon. In fact many people blossom late in life doing their best work. Christopher Plummer won an Oscar at 82. At 62 author Toni Morrison won a Nobel Prize for Literature. Judi Dench rose to fame at 61. I say let’s embrace being senior!

In any other context but aging, the word senior is very positive. A senior executive has worked his/her way up that ladder to a position of value and respect. Their guidance and leadership is revered. Senior counsel again implies a more abundant accumulation of knowledge because of more experience. They’ve put in the time and energy and their advice is sought after. A senior player has skills younger people have not yet acquired and often they too are sought out. Senior staff in many positions have earned seniority which often means perks as in the first to select vacation time and so on. Folks, “senior” is not a bad word!

Here’s something else to consider. I heard a 27 year old give his wonderful testimony recently. He truly did have a tough childhood and statistically should be incarcerated or worse. But one thing he kept repeating really struck me. “Looking back” he could see how God had indeed orchestrated his life so that he is where he is today, about to be ordained. Read through Jeremiah 29:4-14.

We too as seniors have the honour and privilege of looking back. What an absolute treasure this is! Best realized in our senior years, we can see so clearly that God truly did work everything out for our good.

Moses was about 80 when he first confronted Pharaoh. Looking back on his life we see the shaping, pruning and molding he went through during all his earlier years. Born a Hebrew but adopted by an Egyptian princess, he was raised as a prince. He was Egyptian elite bearing great expectations for his future no doubt. He would have been well versed in the government of his day. His education would have been superior and probably even included military training. But the bubble burst when he was 40. He witnessed the brutal beating of a Hebrew slave by an Egyptian and was so outraged he killed the Egyptian master. This resulted in his exile.

This new life of exile was drastically different. Now more of a pauper than a prince, he tended sheep. As a shepherd his days and nights were spent on a quiet hillside with the animals and communing with God. I imagine that during all those years living the opposite of palace life he became a patient man, keenly observant and contemplative. I imagine this is where he first learned to listen to the voice of God. Then at 80, a full 40 years later, God gave him a new task. He had unique inside knowledge, skills and gifts acquired over a lifetime of experiences. He was the senior God himself chose for this monumental job.

During the exodus from Egypt the miraculous deliverance of the Israelites that he witnessed time and time again only seemed to fortify his focus and commitment. After all he had seen the Red Sea part! Raiding armies were defeated over and over. Even provision of food and water in the wilderness could only have come through the hand of God.

Moses had the patience, skill and ability to judge the people but it was a heavy, daunting job. So heeding his father-in-law’s advice, he divided the huge throng into different categories with officials who judged within their own group. Moses was building up a young nation. Then when the people built a golden calf idol (Exodus 32) we learn just what an uncompromising leader Moses was. His desire was to be obedient. Looking back on this life it is clear how God led Moses every step.

We may not realize the strength and fortitude God has given us over all these years until we look back. The grace extended, the many mercies, the answered prayers, the promises secured, the love felt strongest in the darkness …all demonstrate the fulfillment of the plan he had for our lives even before we were born. And now being senior, we are allowed this extraordinary privilege of looking back.

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. “ Proverbs 139:16

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