Thursday, October 25, 2012
Mortifications of old age
A good friend once insisted that sanctification, the path of the soul to righteousness, is a myth, a Calvinist, urban legend, because everyone he knew to be old wasn't mellow or sweet, and certainly not righteous. They were all snippy and contentious--Walter Matthau or Jack Lemmon, he said--and even the old women were crusty.
Sanctification, as the old firebrand Herman Hoeksema says in Reformed Dogmatics, is "that act of God whereby He delivers the justified and regenerated sinner from the defilement and dominion of sin as a spiritual, ethical power, renews him according to the image of Christ, and enables him to walk in all good works, which God has prepared for him." We're not talking about some momentary event here, but a long, drawn-out process that guides us slowly and faithfully upward, like an ancient oak grown gold in autumn. (I wonder if Hoeksema got nice in his old age?)
Here's my theory: in a normal human life, growing garrulous is simply a given. Our worlds shrink, and, like an old bladder, we simply maintain less and less control in a process that generally pisses us off (pardon my language, but the metaphor sort of works if you think about it. . .but don't). My father-in-law claims that at his age, 93, there are no molehills, only mountains. My mother's great concern is simply being able to get herself out of bed and thus out of the rest home. Oh, yeah, and whether or not the Packers win (they're so-so, 4-3).
So let's review--our worlds shrink, we maintain less control, and it ain't no fun. Hrrruumph.
Sanctification promises sweetness, but old age is sour--or so says my friend. Thus, sanctification is really a myth.
Not that it matters a great deal, but the state of Iowa, the Des Moines Register maintains, ranks third in percentage of folks over 85, a number that has grown 66% since 1980. The oldest person in the state is a woman from Johnston, who's--are you sitting down?--115! I'm not making this up. Such facts are interesting when you're old. Even scary.
And I've got a right to think about such things. I'm retired, and my world is shrinking. So there.
And listen to this: Vera Osteen, who's 102, got asked about her secret of longevity; and you know what she said? She told the Register her secret was simple--"Be ornery, that's all." See?
Then there's this: this heretical friend of mine just turned 70, and he himself is showing signs of growing grumpiness.
Woe and woe and woe.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:47 AM