I turned 37 this year. Ouch.
I’m still single and there are several goals I thought I would have accomplished by now. Sometimes aging is depressing.
Our culture is pretty good at enforcing a negative opinion of aging. At every birthday we hear people grumbling about how old they are. They wish for the good ol’ days, or remember how earlier years were their best ones. And I know that women sometimes deal with this even more strongly if they want to have children and are approaching the later childbearing years. It is valid to mourn a fading hope.
But what if we started thinking about aging differently? What if instead of horror we could find satisfaction and gratitude with each passing year?
Here is the paradigm shift that has helped me. What if we consider every year past as not a year lost, but a year gained? How would that change our attitudes?
Our life could be like a piggy bank, and each year is a priceless coin dropped in. We have been given another 12 months. Think of all the memories we’ve accumulated. All the joyful moments. All the things we’ve learned from the hard times. Think of all the people we’ve interacted with. The epiphanies. The people loved. All the days the sun came out, made even more beautiful by the cloudy days before. We were given 365 more days of life this year than we had before we entered it. Free days we didn’t earn. We weren’t owed any of them, but God has given them to us.
C.S. Lewis has a lesser-known fantasy series for adults called The Space Trilogy. In the first two books, the main character goes to a different planet where he gets to see a culture developing completely independent of the way ours does. In the first book, “Out of the Silent Planet,” he goes to Mars and encounters a species that looks like gigantic beavers. They tell him:
“And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back—if we did not know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and that these are that day?”
Understanding that every day is a gift is at the root of this contentment. Knowing that even if I long for days past or days future, I have been given very much today that I can be thankful for, things I did not earn. The good memories of things past can be like precious heirlooms that I now have to look at whenever I want, while the hope I now feel for the future brings value to today.
This helps me appreciate my 37 years as time gained instead of time lost. I’m building up a pretty big piggy bank of days and experiences. Thank you, God, for each of them. I am a truly rich man, and getting richer by the year.