The Silver Lining
By The Rev. Richard H. Schmidt
“Old age isn’t for the faint of heart,” I have heard several people say. Yes, growing old has its downside, but there is an upside, too. And the upside is substantial.
Here are some of the things I like about old age:
- I have rediscovered reading for pleasure — history, biography, social issues, theology, and lots of novels. For a recent birthday, I threw myself a party and asked each guest to give me a book they thought I would enjoy reading. Many of those books I would never have discovered on my own.
- The older I get, the more wrinkles I have. Wisdom may be beyond me, but at least I can appear to be wise. A wrinkled face will do that for you.
- I no longer have anything to prove. Maybe I never did, but I thought I had to prove something to someone. But to whom? God? My parents? My parish? Myself? It does not matter now. There is a lovely relaxation that comes with having nothing to prove.
- Time has become more precious. I have always known my days were numbered, but I gave it little thought until recently. Now, with the clock ticking louder with each passing day, decisions matter more. Deciding to do one thing means deciding not to do something else, probably ever.
- No one now expects me to answer questions, solve problems, devise long-range plans, or explain enigmas like why God allows evil in the world. It is easier to exceed expectations when they are low.
- Taking an afternoon nap no longer makes me feel guilty.
- I have come to enjoy doing Sunday supply work. I always enjoyed preaching and presiding at the altar, but now I do not have to fool with budgets, irascible vestries, and recruiting Sunday-School teachers.
- Few people remember the stupid, thoughtless, and embarrassing things I did years ago, and those who do probably do not care.
- I now have the time to pray in a leisurely, intentional way. Maybe I could always have found time for that, but often I did not. That daily prayer time has become precious to me.
Lord, may I never become so distracted by the downside of aging that I neglect to thank you for the upside.
The Rev. Richard H. Schmidt served parishes in four dioceses, is the author of six books, and was editor and director of Forward Movement from 2005 to 2011. He and his wife, Pamela, serve as chaplains to the retired clergy, spouses, and surviving spouses in the Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast. They live in Fairhope, Alabama.