Gray is the Color of Grace

“He’s old now so this may be his last chance at a world number one ranking and at his age, that’s a real accomplishment.”

That’s what one sports talk radio host said yesterday morning regarding Roger Federer’s chances at this year’s Wimbledon.  It almost made me drive my truck into a ditch.  I didn’t have a problem with his opinion on Federer’s chances at Wimbledon.  What do I care about golf anyway?  I’m joking.  What shocked me was that Roger Federer was being talked about like he’s one step away from riding around in a Rascal Scooter and paying closer attention to Wilford Brimley “die-uh-beat-us” commercials.

Roger Federer is thirty-years-old.

I’m thirty-six.

I quickly changed the station.

A lot of people are scared of growing old, or even worse, looking old.  This is why companies like Just For Men exist and it’s why people say things like, “This is my fifth 29th birthday.”  We just can’t seem to be happy with our age.  When we were kids, we wanted to be older so we could be treated like adults.  Once we became adults, we started missing the glory days of adolescence.  Some have tried to fight this by dragging adolescence well into their 30s and 40s.

Certainly God has to want us to do more with our adulthood than just trying to convince ourselves that we’re really not that old.  Even though a lot of what comes with aging is a product of the fallen world we live in, it can’t be all bad.  Instead of dreading our next birthday, maybe there’s another option.  Is it possible to actually embrace growing old?  I think so and here are two reasons why.

1.  Grace

I had an older brother.  A lot of my friends don’t even know that.  He only lived for a few minutes after he was born.  If you go to the cemetery where my mother is buried you’ll see a very small marble slab that says, “Jeffery Scott Sanders – Our Little Angel.”  As best as I can understand it, my mother got measles during the pregnancy and things got complicated.  She survived but he didn’t.

Every time I see yet another gray hair pop up on my head I’m reminded that that could have been me lying beneath that slab.  I don’t know why God, in his perfect sovereignty, saw fit to take my older brother and keep me but he did.  Each new day that passes, and the negatives of age that come with it, is an undeserved gift from God.  I’m not as energetic as I once was and it’s starting to take me longer to recover after a long run but God has been faithful to me for over thirty-six years and has not failed me once.  With that in mind, getting down about another birthday doesn’t make a lot of sense.

2.  Need

In his excellent book Generation iY, Tim Elmore points out that the average teenager looks up to or is mentored by people his own age.  Watch shows like MTV’s Teen Mom and notice who most of these kids get their advice from.  Other kids.  Most of what we see on reality TV is the furthest thing from reality but unfortunately, this one is on the money.

This generation of children, teenagers and even young adults needs older people.  They need direction from people with wrinkled skin, aching muscles and scars.  In the context of church, rather than being segregated away from the rest of the body, children and teenagers need to actually be with and learn from the adults in their church.  They need to see what it looks like when men and women, gray hair and all, worship Jesus together.

At the church where I pastor, I begin each Sunday morning worship service by inviting any able bodied man to come forward and pray that Jesus would be glorified and that the enemy would be rebuked during and because of our time of worshiping together.  A few weeks ago, my six-year-old son asked if he could come down and pray with the other men.  I was thrilled and I gave him the green light.  The only problem was that there was nobody to take him down.  He didn’t feel comfortable going by himself and I was up on the platform.  The result was one very upset little boy.

Last Sunday I planned ahead.  I asked my friend Alan if he could meet my son on his way down and take him the rest of the way.  Before I started to pray, I looked over the 15 or 20 men who came down and had already begun praying.  One of those men was kneeling with my son, petitioning the Father.

I don’t know if there’s a better place for our sons and daughters to be than surrounded by older men and women who may have passed their prime in some other areas but who can and do still regularly kneel before the Father in prayer.

In less than a month I’ll turn 37.  Feel free to buy me a present but just don’t get me any Just For Men.  I kind of like my gray hair.  It has a way of reminding me that God has been good to me and that I have a younger generation to reach.