For the past few years, I’ve been watching those supermarket circulars in the Sunday papers that offer a discount for seniors aged 55 and over on Tuesdays. I don’t know why Tuesday is so special or why the age 55 is so magical but I’ve been wondering what I would do when i got there. So last November I did – attain the magical age of 55, that is and here’s what happened. I found myself avoiding the market on Tuesdays. I kid you not! The whole senior thing is really getting to me because I’m just not feeling it yet. Shouldn’t it be at least 65 and older? That would give me a whole ‘nother decade to come to grips with it. Then one day a few weeks ago, I needed to pick up a few things so I stopped by the market on my way home from work. I didn’t even realize that it was a Tuesday until I was checking out and the cashier very casually swiped a coupon at the register just before he totaled up my order. “Could that be the dreaded 55+ coupon”, I wondered (though I didn’t have the guts to speak up and ask). I walked out and made myself wait til I got home to check. Sure enough, there it was. “Minus 5% senior discount” right there at the bottom of the reciept. The kid at the register hadn’t even asked, just swiped. Was he being polite or was this just so routine to him? I still don’t know and have still been trying to avoid the place on Tuesdays till i am old enough and mature enough to deal with this.
For advice, i went to one of my favorite older mentors, Abraham’s wife, Sarai. I’ve always liked her because she tries to follow God even though she is disappointingly childless, has been ripped from her home land and has a husband who claims to have chats with God. She has every reason to be bitter, yet she is faithful, loyal and seems to have a handle on her lot in life. So I reread her story in Genesis to see if anything should jump out at me.
Sarai is well past the years of child bearing, yet her overhears a prophesy that she will have a child within one year. She reacts with laughter. I have never thought of her laughter as insolent. To me, her reactions speaks more of her ability to see humor in difficult situations. She is trying to hold onto a bit of dignity in her old age. This woman has suffered through her prime years with an empty womb, which is the worst possible fate for a woman of that time and culture. She has allowed herself to be pulled away from her home and security to travel to points unknown. she has long since suffered the trials of menopause and is now told that she will once again be at the mercy of her sometimes uncooperative female body. I don’t see panic or fear. It feels more like she has come to terms with herself and is realistic about her future. And I’ve come to think that she would laugh at the lengths I have been going through to avoid having to admit the limitations of my age. I have been commiserating with friends about the changes that our bodies are surprising us with and none of us really understand what is happening to us. So I turn to God and you have to love His answer. Sarai may be laughing in Genesis 18:12 but God steps up in verse 13.
Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that i am old?’. Is anything too hard for the LORD?”
Didn’t God say basically the same thing to Mary when she was at the opposite end of this problem (Luke 1:37)? While we see limits, God sees the fullfillment of His plans both for us and for the world. God had been trying to let Sarah know of these things back in Genesis 17:15 when He changed her name to Sarah, meaning princess. Maybe she didn’t catch the signifcance. I know I didn’t get it the first time I read her story. But God was telling her back then, that her childless exsistance up to then was about to change and not because of anything she’d do but because of what God had already planned.
I think back to my Tuesday shopping trip and that presumptious cashier who gave me a discount I didn’t want. I thought I was mad at that kid but as I think it though, I can see that I am not mad at him but at myself. I am ticked off with myself because I see my age as a boundary. You can do some things at one age but not past this age. You can wear yoga pants when you are eightteen but not at fifty (no need to scar others). You can eat pepperoni pizza before bed at twenty but now can only eat it during the day with an extra dose of Pepcid. You can enjoy long walks in bare feet at 18 but now wouldn’t leave the house without the right orthodics in your specially designed walking shoes. so many limits!
Yet Sarai – now called Sarah – will bear a child and he will continue the line that will become the nation of Israel. She still will try to do things in her own way as the rest of her story attests to, but she will learn to stop being so realistic and more optomistic about her future. Maybe that’s what aging gracefully is. I’m not sure yet. Sarah was in her 90’s when she was learning these lessons so I still have a ways to go. But I’m realizing that the old saying that “age is just a number” is truer than I thought. I’m not going to take the actions of a cashier (who might have been genuinely trying to help and not insult me) as a sign of age but i will take advantage of the discount! I’m going to start looking for those wider horizons that God has in store for me rather than just keep measuring my wider waistline. I’m going to look beyond those limitations that I put on myself and look to God’s directions for me. And just between you and me – I will keep that bottle of Pepcid handy! I like to call that common sense – not giving in to negative limitations.