TITLE: Growing Older
By Ruth Thoutenhoofd
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I am 59 years old. Because I try not to dress in “old lady “ clothes, dye my hair regularly, and watch my weight, I secretly thought people would have a hard time believing I’m almost sixty. Of course, there are times when I’ve looked in the mirror when the sun was shining brightly through the bathroom window and was a bit shocked to see my older sister’s face looking back at me, but overall, I thought I was hiding it pretty well.
Imagine my shock, then, when the young cashier at Zeller’s took $10.00 off my total bill and when I questioned her about it she informed me that it was senior’s day! Now, I have no problem with someone giving me a good deal, but the fact that she didn’t even ask me my age was quite off-putting. I phoned my husband from the car. “I have good news and bad news…”
I love to tell this story to my friends who are mostly just hitting their mid 50’s. We can laugh hard about it, because we’re not really feeling old yet. Most of us have husbands who aren’t thinking of retiring. We are enjoying our young grandchildren. We’re kind of in our prime – the youth of old age – feeling the benefits of an empty nest while we still have energy for our own life. We’re at the wonderful age when we can use aching bones as an excuse not to do something, but they don’t really hold us back if we actually want to move the piano across the room.
Lately, however, old age is showing up in unexpected ways. I find the international teenagers I care for in my home don’t have the patient mom my own kids did, the one who could tolerate noise and put up with some irresponsibility. Little things stress me out. My daughter’s heavy load at grad school feels worse to me than it does to her. Phone calls that require quick action to put out fires in my husband’s ministry make me want to run and hide. I'm not as resilient as I used to be.
There are too many empty spaces in my life since most of my children and grandchildren have moved far away. No babysitting, no extended family meals, no “rescuing” when a car breaks down. No son dropping in to chat. And the small stresses seem to expand like gas into the empty space and fill up all of that alone time. I mull things over way too long and too often. I feel the need to have my own life for the first time in 33 years - something God-assigned to fill the space and push back on the stress.
So I pray for opportunity to enjoy life and ministry a whole new way, to minister regularly to people in need, to look for ways to reach out to long neglected friends, to write and read and make new friends. And I will ask God to show me what it means to “be anxious for nothing”, to “abide in Him”, and to let Him produce the fruit in me that will make this next stage of my life the sweetest and most useful yet. The wonderful thing is, I have no doubt He will do it.
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