I have discovered (maybe rediscovered is a better term here) the writings of an education hero. Before I tell you his name, I’ll quote him. He authored his last book at the age of 80, the tenth he’d written. It was his final work, and it implores us to stay the course, to age gracefully, and to remain active in service to the church and to our Lord. What a great bit of encouragement this book has been to me and to others who’ve read it. It has long since gone out of print, but you can still find well-worn, ragged copies if you look high and low (the one I just received from a bookseller in the East is about to fall apart). Here is what the author has to say about growing old:
To me the most tragic and gloomy pictures in the world is that of old people – good old people – early growing tired of life and giving up, thinking there is nothing more for which to live; when as a fact, if only they knew it, in many respects the best part of life is still ahead. I have therefore a desire to stir up and provoke old people to recast their thinking about old age, and to urge them to strive to make their last days among the happiest and most useful of all.
At the same time…I desire to help young people and those in middle life to see and to understand that old age is not an enemy to be dreaded and avoided, but that it may be made, I may say in perfect truth, the best and most fruitful part of one’s life. For is not life a sacred trust – all of life? Isn’t it God’s plan for people to grow old? Then should we not accept old age joyfully and thankfully and do all we can to ‘grow lovely’ and to be useful while growing old? (pp.2-3 of Life at Eighty As I See It).
If I said the name Arthur Flake, some of you would know exactly who I’m talking about. He was instrumental in Southern Baptist life after the turn of the last century. His exposure to the Scientific Management Theory of the day inspired him to apply its principles to the church, and he wrote his famous “Flake’s Formula” in 1923. He lived to the age of 90, retiring at age 74, but remained active. He wrote 10 books after the age of 58! He also wrote the book Life At Eighty As I See It, the one I’ve quoted from today.
His example is my goal. I want to finish strong and well. I’m pursuing a doctorate. I’m in the process of writing 2 books, possibly a third. I’m serving on a church staff, and I have my full-time job that allows me to have a part in delivering Bible study content to millions of people a week. What will your life look like? Will you slow down or go for a higher gear? The church and our world need you in the game, so take an example from Arthur Flake and push hard, love life, and stay in the game. See your aging as a blessing, and look for ways to use your wisdom and experience to help the church, the Kingdom, and the world.
Flake said that “life is made up of deeds, not years.” May the work of your hands and the deeds you attempt for God be the kind that make eternal differences in the lives of people. Embrace your older self. Go hard. Keep striving. The world may overlook your wisdom and experience, but in God’s hands, you can still do miraculous things. Even at eighty.
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