While riding the GO train into Toronto earlier today I noticed a headline in a newspaper someone was reading, it read: "Age nothing but a number." Without reading the article I am fairly certain that I know what it means. It is telling us that we need not be hindered by age, that we are free to keep learning and growing, no matter how old we are. How we think about ourselves is more important than how many birthdays we have celebrated!
For some reason, that probably has something to do with my age, the newspaper headline grabbed my attention and as I sat there I began to think about its message. In some ways its optimistic message is one that should be taken to heart by those who are too quick to blame their inactivity and the fact that they have stopped growing as people on their chronological age. Ironically one way to speed up the aging process is to pull back and take it easy and to avoid the challenges of life that come our way daily. It is a shame that people with experience and many gifts chose to "retire" prematurely instead of finding something that they love to do and then doing it with all their might as long as they alive on the earth. This is particularly true when the retirees are Christian believers who should never outlive their usefulness no matter how old they are.
But there is another side to the headline message that must be critiqued. While age is nothing but a number it is not true that we will go on forever as long as our countenance is sunny and our outlook is optimistic. At the best we have 70, or 80, and in exceptional circumstances, a few more years beyond that, and then we are called into the presence of God. As I look around it seems to me that generally speaking our society does not want to face this reality. In all kinds of ways we try to avoid the inevitable and we try to look as if time is on our side. But the truth is that we are dying from the minute we are born and we will never be free from death until the new heavens and earth are revealed. The critical question is whether or not we know him who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25-26). Only then is it profoundly true that age is nothing but a number!