MUCH has been written about the aging of the post-World-War-II generation and the underlying expectation that those of us in that generation are heading for decline and decay. I found myself praying rather earnestly about that subject a few months ago. An elderly friend was experiencing more and more limitations, and as I observed her condition, I suddenly felt anxious for us both.
While praying, I remembered from John's Gospel a statement Christ Jesus had made about his ministry. He said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. To me, this meant that our lives don't have to decline into limitation and inactivity. Rather, through our willingness to accept the spiritual view of life Christ Jesus presented, our experience should expand, not contract.
Jesus provided a wonderful summary of what it takes to live this spiritual life. He said, first, we should love God and, second, we should love our neighbor as ourselves. This type of loving involves seeing ourselves in totally spiritual terms, as the offspring of God. When we accept this spiritual identity as our own, we are giving up the belief that we have been born into material bodies that must necessarily decline. We are recognizing our inseparable relationship to God and are taking our first steps
in living in accord with God's moral and spiritual law.
Loving our neighbors is very much a part of such spiritual living. As we learn to love God, to value His tender care for us, we begin to value His whole creation. We recognize that all of God's ideas--His children--are worthy of His love and that no one is condemned to accept material limitations, including aging.
We prove man's freedom from limitation as we pray specifically to reject suggestions that we can't think as clearly as we used to, that we are falling behind the times, that our bodies are holding us back from doing good. Since we actually are inseparable from Life, God, our creator, we can begin to see ourselves in terms of the spiritual qualities that make up our being. These are ageless and include--among others--intelligence, love, activity, purity, strength, beauty, and peace. Recognizing their spir itual basis helps us to live in the expectation that as our understanding of God, their divine source, expands, so will our ability to express these and other aspects of our identity.
Through prayer and sincere turning to God, we learn to know Him and to listen ever more closely for His guidance. As part of our efforts to obey God, we need to give up behavior that would reinforce the limitations of aging: anger, for instance, which would tie us to the past and darken our futures.
Sometimes this change in behavior isn't easy, but it is essential if we are to take the road that leads to the abundant life Christ Jesus promised us. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes much about the effects of spiritualizing our lives in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. And speaking of what happens when we turn away from reliance on a material view of ourselves to the spiritual, she writes, "Each successive stage of experience unfolds new vie ws of divine goodness and love.
This expansive view of existence makes a big difference in our lives. In my friend's case, her life did open up more, and she was able to try, and enjoy, a number of new things. Each of us can have the abundant life Jesus promised us, and we can start right now.