This is past weekend was my birthday and I tend to reflect on my birthday. I think about all the obstacles I've had to contend with, all the risks taken, the gains and the losses; and whether or not I feel up for new challenges in the coming years. To me, this is one of the adventures of aging. The growing tendency to want to relax more as I age; the desire to sit back and enjoy "harvesting" whatever's been "planted" is real and it's dangerous. It is an ever-present threat to slow me down! Or worse yet, shut me down completely!
I'm noticing how often I'm tempted to feel as though I know what to do in a given situation because I'm recalling what happened in the past. It's so easy to think to myself, "Last time I did this, "such and such" happened. So this time, I won't do this. Or last time I said that, "such and such" was the response, so this time I won't say "such and such". I have more history behind me with each passing year and feel experienced in a lot more ways than I did in my youth. This outlook can hinder trying new things: because I think I know what will happen. Similarly, I may be tempted to do the same things over and over again, believing I'll get the same desirable outcome each time.
The lessons from experience can be advantageous, but using past experiences as templates for how to behave in future experiences can be a great stumbling block to my continued growth. Deep down, I know there are limitless places from where I can learn new lessons, if I'm open to it. As Job 32:9 reminds us "It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right". Sometimes, it's some "kid" who seems like a "hot mess" in some ways that teaches me some really valuable lesson.
Also, it's crucial to the enjoyment of life to stay open to discovery. If I greet everything with a "been there, done that" attitude, familiarity will stale everything and I'll be older, but not necessarily wiser; and, Lord knows, I don't want that!
There's a real danger of bitter roots setting in if I allow myself to stop talking about things I want or asking for changes I want to see because I've lost hope that things could be any different. It takes real commitment and faith to continue believing people can change (myself, especially). God knows what we want and he knows when we're losing faith in ourselves or other people too.
Psalm 38:9 says, "All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you", so the source of us all knows our desires and can supply our longings or not. But if he gave me whatever I asked for right away with no waiting period, where would the faith be in that? How would I grow if it came right away? The growth happens in the waiting...and practicing faith, believing while living through the waiting.
I think what I'm seeing as I age is the importance of holding onto my willingness to be vulnerable and open to new experiences. Consenting to learning, growing, speaking up, and seeking understanding of others' points of view will likely lead to growing old, not just gracefully, but faithfully!
How about you? How do you keep growing as a person as you age?