I'm not a great fan of the ‘growing old disgracefully’ movement, which seems to think that a second adolescence marked by outrageous behaviour and ‘spending the children's inheritance’ (seen the bumper stickers?) is the way to go. Understandable if you think that this life is all there is, but hardly an eternal perspective.
That said, you might enjoy one of the innocent enough signature poems, beloved of my first mother-in-law: “When I am old, I shall wear purple… go out in my slippers in the rain… and learn to spit” (http://members.tripod.com/~TommieGee/wearpurple.html for the full version).
So when a friend wrote in my 60th birthday card: “Diamond geezer, diamond geezer,” I was happy that one person at least thinks I'm a decent, reliable bloke (www.londonslang.com/db/d/). Kind, but this milestone set me thinking about what should characterise believers as we grow older.
That supreme Christian Paul wrote letters to the churches in Philippi, Ephesus and Colossae around his 60th birthday; what was his ‘take’ on the Christian Senior? To the first he wrote, “…this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil 3.13). Straining forward… pressing on… no resting on your laurels, then!
Meanwhile to the Ephesians he noted that the grace-gifts which Jesus imparts to his church are “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph 4.12-13). By that yardstick, I have some way to go.
And to the Colossians, Paul also paints a picture of maturity, and of fruitfulness: “…we have not ceased praying for you that you may be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God” (1.9-10).
All of which convinces me that the Christian life is not something from which you retire! The life-long pattern for all of us is to press on, to continue to grow in spiritual knowledge, understanding and wisdom, to seek that wonderful Christian maturity of which Paul speaks, and to be fruitful.
And the performance indicator? I've shaken hands with two farmers recently, and each had massive mitts. 200 miles apart, one grows grass and animals, the other grows grain, but both pairs of hands are huge. That's what manual work does, it develops your hands.
Maybe the ‘size’ of my spirit indicates the extent to which I've exercised it over the years. And maybe that's why God's pattern is for all of us to be involved in active ministry, not just a select few.
Yours in Christ