The Grace of Age

I have become old enough that most people with whom I spend time would tell you I am “old!”  The only thing now I can do is not to act my age!  Seriously though, I am quite good with my age.  In fact, most of the time I choose to think about my age as a kind of grace.  Being born was not my choice and some day will be my death day and I won’t have any choice about that.  The life between these two events provides me with a myriad of choices.  I am grateful for that and feel privileged to have the choice to try to keep getting better and not be bitter.

I know the classical languages and, therefore, know that grace means, “gift.”  In one very real sense life itself is a grace---a gift.  And really, the only thing we can do in the face of a gift is say “thank you”---gracias.  I try to live with that grateful spirit each day.  Of course, some days I manage it fairly well and others days I fail miserably.  But I can try.

With some age comes perspective.  Thankfully, I have enough age to be able to see age as a grace.  When I watch my three-year old grandkid, I doubt that she has yet a sense of grace.  In fact, I think she is beginning to learn about it.  I don’t think she has much sense of having been born---that her life is a given, not a choice.  If she does have this sense, it is not evident in any normal way.  But she is beginning to learn.

One way I watch her begin to learn about grace is learning to say “thank you” when she is given a gift.  She is old enough to get Christmas and the gifts that come with that.  And birthdays have gifts that come with that.  And most of the time, the gifts come prettily wrapped.  I suspect in her mind gifts are always wrapped and, therefore, always a surprise.  You might guess what’s inside, but you never know for sure until you unwrap the thing.  Once you unwrap it, the surprise is gone.

And in a sense, the gift is also gone.  Once you receive a gift, it is now “yours.”  That’s why her parents and I are trying to teach her to say, “thank you.”   That’s about all you can do when you are given a gift.  But then, the gift is “yours.”  You don’t have to keep saying thanks.  What you have to do now that it is “yours” is to make something out of it.  If it is a toy, play with it.  If it is money, spend it in a reasonable way.  If it is love---yes love is a gift---embrace it appreciate it.

It’s nice to use my grandkid as my foil.  It has been a long time since I was three!  And that means I should have learned to say “thank you” when I realize I have been given a gift.  And it should mean that I have had a thousand or a million chances to be aware of the many gifts and to embrace them and appreciate them.  I know I have done this perfectly.  Sometimes I have done it well.  But there is still and upside and I am climbing the ladder of gratitude.  And I am thankful for every new chance.

As I think about the grace of age---at my age---I realize how deeply spiritual it can be.  The sad thing would be not to realize how spiritual it can be.  I know there are some really fancy, complicated definitions of spirituality.  But a simple definition for me is to see spirituality as how you make meaning in your life. For many of this, the definition includes God.  It does for me.  God is a key aspect of how I make meaning in my life.

Somehow God is woven into the fabric of the world and into me.  That is not to say I think the world is divine or that I am God.  I do think the world is the laboratory---or playground---of the Divinity.  And I do affirm that I am godly---or at least capable of being godly.  To be godly means that I live and act in a way that God would do it.  And as a Christian, I have Jesus as a model and friend.

By nature God is a giving, loving Being.  God has the best in mind for every one of us.  And that is where grace comes into the picture.  Every day I realize I have been gifted (graced) with another day.  That is what I call the grace of age.  Age is nothing more than a cumulative sum of the days I have been graced to live and spiritually figure out how to grow.

I appreciate all the days behind me.  But I hang out with mostly younger folks and they are not really interested in hearing about my history.  The have a big future and a present day setting up that future.  I try to join them in that mode.  I know I have the grace of age, but my spiritual job is to share a little wisdom if appropriate.  God is dealing with them at least as much as God is dealing with me.  If I want to be an instrument of God, then my role is to support God’s work in them.

After all, the truth of be given the grace of age is to know and accept it is not about you!  If God is love, then we also should become God’s lovers of all others and the world.  If we do that, then we have figured out how to be gracious instruments of the grace given to us.  That’s my commitment and hope.

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