Age is Just a Number
“Age is just a number.”
Whoever came up with this expression didn’t have my bum knee and locking shoulder. They didn’t have those pains in their fingers every time they grip something heavy. They didn’t struggle to sleep at night for all of the trips to the bathroom. They didn’t count their age, nor their wrinkles. They didn’t fight to remember.... oh I can’t even remember what I was supposed to remember.
Growing older stinks. The Preacher in Ecclesiastes worded it like this:
Before the days of adversity come,
and the years approach when you will say,
“I have no delight in them;”
before the sun and the light are darkened,
and the moon and the stars,
and the clouds return after the rain;
on the day when the guardians of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
the women who grind grain cease because they are few,
and the ones who watch through the windows see dimly,
the doors at the street are shut
while the sound of the mill fades;
when one rises at the sound of a bird,
and all the daughters of song grow faint.
Also, they are afraid of heights and dangers on the road;
the almond tree blossoms,
the grasshopper loses its spring,
and the caper berry has no effect;
for the mere mortal is headed to his eternal home,
and mourners will walk around in the street;
before the silver cord is snapped,
and the gold bowl is broken,
and the jar is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel is broken into the well;
and the dust returns to the earth as it once was,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
Sandwiched in this poetic language are statements about hair going white, eyes growing dim, hands growing weak, energy dissipating, fear settling in, teeth falling out, hearing becoming dull, and hope getting scarce. Sure, “age is just a number.” It’s the most depressing number of ever calculated.
Unless you’re a Christian. Then age marks a celebration of the years you’ve been able to live like Christ. As a Christian, every day is a gift of opportunities instead of another day of pain. When you follow Christ, every day is a chance to share His story with those who have not heard it. Every day is an opportunity to live for Him until we live with Him. Every time you wake up, you can be used to bring God glory, to live like Christ in the world that needs Him so badly, and each day ends with you getting closer to your eternal home.
Age is also unimportant if you realize that we are not guaranteed another year. I’m not shooting to live until I’m 105 years old. I might not live until I’m 45 years old. That makes life less about the years lived and more about living the years I’m given. I cannot push off until tomorrow the things that I should do today if I know that tomorrow is not guaranteed and today is. I have work to do taking care of my family, sharing the Gospel with those I love, preparing my kids for life, loving my wife devotedly. If I can do those things today in such a way that they have no doubt who I was if I’m no longer here tomorrow, then I will have done well. In that way, age doesn’t matter because age is just a number.
So maybe the expression is correct. Age is just a number. For some, it’s the sum of their life and a gathering of ailments. But for Christians, it’s the number of opportunities given to do right, to love others, and to worship God. It’s a countdown to when we can worship God face to face. It’s a number that means we’re getting closer to our goal.
My advice is to stop focusing on the number of years gone by and start focusing on the number of days you might have left. Count opportunities instead of ailments, aches, and injuries. And realize that we should, “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecc 12.13).