It’s already near the end of February, and time doesn’t seem to be slowing down. This year, Peter turns 40 and I turn 39. We’re still young, but we do recognize that we’re now more than halfway to retirement.
We’ve watched our grandparents age and pass away, and now our parents are approaching the age their parents were at the time of their deaths. Matters of eternity and legacy are prominent in our minds.
I can’t help wondering what I’ll be like at my own end.
When we were last back in Canada, we had the chance to reconnect with many people we love and care for. I’ll never forget meeting with one lady who’s now a senior. She tended to be critical of others and express her opinions harshly. I couldn’t help thinking, You used to be so sweet and gentle. What happened?
Some people get hard and brittle as they age.
Others, like my dad’s mum, start out abrasive and end with souls full of love and peace. I enjoyed watching her age, and discovering new depths of grace whenever we met.
Both of these women are (were) Christians. They both loved Jesus. So, what’s the difference?
Aging is a paradoxical process. As we get older, we learn how much we don’t know. The world gets a little less black-and-white. We become a little more comfortable with ambiguity. We become a little more accepting of grey areas.
At the same time, whatever character we’ve cultivated in our youth is amplified in old age. In some cases, we may become more rigid and inflexible in our stance on certain issues. We may make resolutions like, “I’ve put up with this for the first 50 years of my life, but no longer!” The edges of our character may get a little more jagged. This seems particularly true for issues we’re passionate about.
Is the way I end my life simply a roll of the dice, or are there measures I can take to be proactive and ensure that I end well?
I think self-examination, fuelled by humility and self-awareness, is key. For this to work, I have to be courageous: willing to be brutally honest in my answers to a specific set of questions.
Our spiritual beliefs often shape our other outlooks and viewpoints, so these questions cover not only issues of humility and Christ-likeness, but also the manner in which we read and interpret Scripture. Examining this can provide us with a great deal of illumination on how submissive we are to God. Here are the questions I’ve thought of so far:
1. Have I adopted any theology which depends on people rather than the Bible? For instance, perhaps I’m leaning too much on people’s opinions, on church history and traditions, or on culture. Is there any stance I’ve adopted that sounds “biblical” on the surface, but that isn’t supported by the word of God?
2. Have I adopted attitudes that are divisive to the worldwide church? Be sure to include different denominations in this consideration. Have I become someone who encourages disunity between brothers and sisters in Christ?
3. Do I freely admit that I could be wrong, even on topics that are dear to my heart?
4. Do I recognize that even if my beliefs are correct, my approach could be wrong?
5. Am I willing to change?
6. Do I call some denominations illegitimate because their beliefs about things not specifically mentioned in the Bible differ from mine?
7. Do I use extreme language for things that Jesus does not deal with in an extreme way?
8. If I’m really passionate about something, ask: is there anything about me now that would horrify my younger, more moderate Christian self?
9. Do I use the Bible to prove my theology? Or, does the Bible shape my theology? Do I read my beliefs into Bible verses, or do I change my beliefs when the Bible contradicts them?
10. Would Jesus do the things that I now do, or say the things that I now say? If so, what in the Bible makes me think so? Give specific references.
11. Am I more loving now than I was yesterday? Be sure to consider relationships with fellow Christians, people who aren’t Christians, and people with whom I wildly disagree.
12. Have I forgiven everyone who has wronged me?
13. Are there any unresolved conflicts in my life? Is it within my power to reconcile with anyone?
I’ve started examining myself, using these questions and categories, on a regular basis. May God, in His mercy, enable us each to age with grace.
Can you think of other questions that might be helpful? I’d love to hear about them, either privately via email or publicly in the comments below.