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)]
Every year, Britain’s The Oldie magazine celebrates the achievements of the “older generation’ by granting their “Oldie of the Year Awards.” According to the magazine’s founder, Richard Ingrams, it’s not enough for someone simply to be an “elderly achiever”—you also must show that you still have “snap in your celery.” This year, wanting to recognize Queen Elizabeth II for her leadership during the pandemic, the magazine offered her the honor of being their “Oldie of the Year.” The 95-year-old monarch, however, politely declined saying, “Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel, as such The Queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept, and hopes you will find a more worthy recipient.” What a great attitude; there’s a woman who still has snap in her celery!
What defines “old?” Is it a matter of years or mind? When we spent our winters in Colorado, we often saw Banana George (aka George Blair) in his signature yellow jumpsuit shredding the slopes on his yellow snowboard. In his eighties and early nineties at the time, George didn’t even learn to snowboard until he was 75. This stunt water skier and star of the Cypress Gardens water show was 40 before he even learned how to water ski! At 46, George started barefoot water skiing and became famous for skiing on one foot while holding the tow rope between his teeth (a feat he continued doing until he was 79)! George continued water skiing and snowboarding until he was 92 when, suffering from the devastating effects associated with Lewy Body Dementia, he reluctantly put away his water skis and snowboard. When speaking of George, his wife said, “He wanted to make people happy, so he did all these things and made everybody happy.” Banana George certainly had “snap in his celery!”
It’s easy for us “seniors” to consider youth a prerequisite for serving God and even easier for the younger generation to think of us as “over the hill.” After all, David was about seventeen when he defeated Goliath and Daniel and his three friends were in their mid-teens when they boldly refused to eat the king’s food. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were no more than thirty when they bravely chose a fiery furnace over worshiping Nebuchadnezzar’s statue. Samuel was just a lad when he readily answered God’s call, Jeremiah was only 17 when he became a prophet, Esther was barely out of her teens when she saved a nation, and Mary was barely in her teens when she chose to become mother to the Messiah. It’s believed that Timothy was around 20 when he joined Silas and Paul on the Apostle’s second tour through Asia Minor and less than 40 when he took charge of the church at Ephesus.
Youth, however, is not a requirement for doing God’s work. Abraham was 75 when he left Haran and headed for Canaan. 80 when he led the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses guided them for another 40 years. When they led the Israelites across the Jordan, we know that Caleb was 79 and Joshua was about the same age. Moreover, contrary to popular belief (and most Sunday school coloring pages), Daniel was not a young man when he faced those lions. 66 years had passed since his arrival in Babylon and, by the time he was thrown to the lions, Daniel was around 82! 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 record his prophetic visions for at least three more years. Along with their faith in God, these men had snap in their celery!
We probably won’t be nominated as the “Oldie of the Year” or water ski and snowboard until our nineties but, like Queen Elizabeth and “Banana” George, we can continue to have a passion for life. Moreover, like those Biblical “oldies” we can have a passion for serving the Lord. Since none of us are old by God’s standards (after all, He’s older than time itself), our age should be determined by attitude rather than years. As Author Erma Bombeck once said, “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.’” May we all endeavor to keep the snap in our celery!
Here is the test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t. [Richard Bach]