Clinging to Our Own Youthfulness

Proverbs 23:22 RSV
Hearken to your father who begot you, and do not despise your mother when she is old.

I’m getting older. Actually in a few months, I’ll be eligible for senior discounts in some establishments. To be honest, I never thought I’d get old. In my teens, I thought—as did many of my friends—that I simply wouldn’t live that long, that the world would implode upon itself (or that the Lord Jesus would return for His Church) before I got old. Recently, Franklin Graham commented on his father’s 90th birthday: “He’s always been ready to die,” Franklin Graham said. “But nobody’s prepared him for getting old.” ( Certainly, that’s how many of us have felt. And now we are having to change our expectations of life.

Youth is arrogant. There’s just no two ways about it. Vernon McGee wrote:
“‘Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.’ This has been reversed in our day—today the elder is supposed to submit to the younger. Young people are the ones who are protesting, and they are the ones who want to discard the establishment. However, the Christian young person needs to realize that the Word of God says, ‘Ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder.’ After all, your father, if you have a good or a godly father, has a lot of sense and maybe more sense than you have. A friend of mine told me, ‘I was ashamed of my dad at the time when I went away to college. Although he had made good money, and he was an executive, I was ashamed of him. He had such old-fashioned ideas; he was a real square. When I finished college and got out in the business world, I didn’t see him for a couple of years. When I did see him again, I was absolutely amazed to see how much he’d learned in just six years!’ A lot of young people find out, after they themselves have been out in the school of hard knocks for awhile, that their dads have learned a great deal.”

Even if we didn’t “despise” our parents when we were young, most of us have bought into the “culture of youth” that permeates our society. We want to act young, look young, think young, be young. Our culture is obsessed with being young: plastic surgery, cosmetics, hair transplants, clothing. Even many of our recreational activities are geared to being young (and are done by those whose bodies are protesting such use).

Unfortunately, it seems as if this idea of idolizing youth has also invaded the Church. So many churches are now structuring their services, not based on Biblical admonitions, but on “attracting the young.” I’ve seen pastors in their fifties and sixties dressed in Hawaiian shirts and flip flops, wearing piercings in their ears, trying to look serious about preaching. Instead they look pathetic, old men trying to play dress up in their grandkids’ clothes. The fact is, we are the generation that grew up thinking that old was uncool and heaven forbid we see ourselves in the same light.

It’s really too bad. There’s a lot to be said for growing older. For one thing, age can bring wisdom. Simply living longer brings experience which can result in knowing which decisions are likely to produce the best outcomes. But more than that, it is hoped that the older a believer gets, the more that believer has prayed, has studied her Bible, has listened to the soft voice of the Spirit. Instead of clinging to youth—which, in essence, is clinging to this life—maturity should bring to us some acknowledgment that most of what we do is futile and that our focus should be on storing up treasures on heaven, not trying to refit the decaying treasures here on earth. The next time you look into that magnifying mirror and see another crow’s feet, don’t call them laugh lines or even wrinkles. Call them prayer lines and realize that you’ve been blessed to have had one more time to commune with the Lord, to learn how to trust Him, and to gain the wisdom He promises so that you can share it with those around you.