Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me. [Psalm 71:18 (NLT)]
Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t. [Richard Bach]
Yesterday morning, I was shocked to hear a sportscaster describe both Venus Williams (at 37) and Roger Federer (nearly 36) as “old.” Although Williams was defeated in the Wimbledon finals, Federer easily defeated his youthful 28-year-old opponent and became the oldest person in 87 years to win the title. Since both players are just a little more than half my age, I wondered what defines “old.” When we spent our winters in Colorado, we’d occasionally see Banana George (George Blair) in his signature yellow jumpsuit shredding the slopes on his yellow snowboard. Having learned how to snowboard at 75, George was in his eighties and early nineties at the time. Was he old? Famed as a star of the Cypress Gardens water show, this stunt water skier didn’t even learn how to water ski until he was 40. He started barefoot skiing six years later and became a legend by water skiing on one foot while holding the tow rope between his teeth! He continued doing that trick until he was 79! It was not until he was 92, and suffering from Lewy body dementia, that George reluctantly hung up his water skis and snowboard. I’m sure he would have had a few choice words for the sportscaster who called those tennis greats “old!”
When 36 is considered old for tennis, it’s easy for “seniors” (a nice word for old people) to consider youth a prerequisite for feats of strength and bravery. After all, David was probably about seventeen when he heroically defeated Goliath. Daniel and his three friends were less than fifteen when they boldly refused to be defiled by eating the king’s food. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were no more than thirty when they bravely chose a fiery furnace over worshiping Nebuchadnezzar’s gold statue. Samuel was just a lad when he readily answered God’s call and Mary was barely in her teens when she willingly became mother to Jesus.
It’s good to remember that youth is not a requirement for doing God’s work. Moses was eighty when he led the Israelites out of Egypt and, when he died forty years later, he still had clear eyesight and was strong and vigorous. Joshua had to have been at least sixty (and probably much older) when he led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Abraham was seventy-five when he left Haran and headed for Canaan and Sarah was ninety when Isaac was born. Moreover, contrary to popular belief (and most Sunday school coloring pages), Daniel was not a young man when he faced those lions. By that time, he was acting as an administrator for Darius the Mede; six Babylonian kings had come and gone and sixty-six years had passed since his arrival in Babylon as a youth. When he was thrown into the lion’s den because he dared pray to God, Daniel was around eight-two years old. At that age, we’d expect a stroke or heart attack to finish him off before the hungry beasts could. Nevertheless, Daniel survived and continued to prosper under both Darius and Cyrus the Persian; he recorded his prophetic visions for at least three more years.
Even though we probably won’t take up snowboarding in our seventies or get pulled on bare feet through the water while holding a tow rope between our teeth, like Banana George, we can continue to have a passion for life. While Roger Federer and Venus Williams may be considered old by tennis standards, none of us are too old by God’s!
When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” [Erma Bombeck]