September 14, 2020
After touching up my facial hair on a Sunday for the week ahead, I noticed the makings of what looked like a gray hair. Perhaps it was the stress of youth or my proximity to the “young at heart” at the church I attend, but it would appear as though I was in the research and development stage of donning a salt and pepper look. But while I was concerned about the occasional gray hair, I realized just how many people try to hide theirs. Hair dye purchases rise with age. We’re taught never to ask how old a person is (and even when we do, we are supposed to jokingly play it off like they are at least fifteen years younger than they actually are). Age is lectured to society as being something we should hide and deny. It is almost as if old age is something to be despised and not prized.
God speaks to the contrary. “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” (Proverbs 16:31, 20:29). Aside from a senior citizen’s discount at various fast food chains, those who have circled the sun time and time again are blessed with a lifetime of experiences, and from those experiences wisdom can be gleaned. Congregations across the country may have a lot of able-bodied young people but lack wrinkles, and therefore, are missing out on decades of life experiences we can grow and learn from.
In an effort to connect younger generations with the older ones in the Church, I took part in a project where I sat down with one of the older gentlemen who attended the same congregation as I did, and asked him some provided questions. What was supposed to last fifteen minutes ended up lasting over two hours as this over seventy year old faithful member of College Hill Baptist Church (now Gospel Community College Hill) shared his life’s experiences. From childhood to relationships, the many ways College Hill has changed over the years, and his deep friendships with other recently passed long-time church members, I collected more wisdom from a two hour interview than I had received from years of watching videos online.
Aside from giving us a timeframe for various reigns, I think that 2 Chronicles depicts the age that the Kings started to rule, and for how long they reigned was because the amount of “life in their years” needed to be highlighted. Methuselah, who lived longer than any person in recorded history, is admired not only for his record number of birthday candles on his birthday cake, but for the amount of wisdom and experience he must have cultivated over the course of his 969 year life (Genesis 5:27). There’s a reason why Paul instructed Timothy to not rebuke an older man in 1 Timothy 5. Paul recognized the seasoned wisdom commonly found in those who have been around longer.
Paul knew of Timothy’s potential, and so as the old man speaking to his young pupil, he advised him to be an example for believers, the young and old alike, “…in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12). The Apostle Paul would know a thing or two about how to live a life well, and while much of his life was used up in persecuting Christians, now as one he was encouraging the young Timothy to live a life of steadfast integrity, so that throughout his days, whether in old age or youth, he would have the credibility to advise others how to live life for Christ. The yearning of Paul’s heart would be that Timothy would be able to teach from his successes of faithfulness rather than from his failings. He wanted the next generation to do it even better than he did, which is what the older generations should want from the younger generations, in the Church and elsewhere.
Realistically, there are some daunting realities that accompany old age, including increased chance of disease, the loss of friends of the same age, a weakened body, and perhaps a mind that is not as strong as it once was. But the gray hairs on our head should be viewed as indicators that someone is further along in the race, a race they are striving to finish well (2 Timothy 4:7-8). We should cheer on our gray haired friends out of recognition that we will one day be with them by the grace of God. They need the encouragement to continue on in the race as the things they have known for so long begin to fade. Since God holds age and wisdom in such high esteem, we should too.
It would be so blatantly counter-cultural to appreciate the amount of years we have been given in this life. Not all who have lived have seen the amount of days we see. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we vastly appreciated the years God has blessed us with by not shying away from how old we are? I simply do not want to love birthdays up until I reach thirty and then hide my real age from the public eye until milestone birthdays, or until I reach my eighties where my age is suddenly seen as something to be celebrated. That’s a fifty year gap of not being thankful for the longevity my God has graced me with. Gray need not be a color associated with gloominess in our heads; if we shifted our perspective and our appreciation, it can be associated with matured wisdom and grace.
Written by: Landen Swain
Landen believes the human experience longs to be expressed; through our art, our labor, our songs, our storytelling. As a published playwright, author, and poet, he enjoys expressing his little chapter of the human experience through his writings and is thankful that the SA blog allows him to do that. He is published in numerous magazines, literary journals, and has several plays published by Off the Wall Plays, an online play publishing house.