MANY people these days seem caught up in an effort to avoid growing old. We're offered products to make us look younger, products to make us feel younger. We're even encouraged to act younger. The underlying message is, ``Growing old is bad, so do everything you can to stay young.'' That message, though, unthinkingly assumes that the opposite of ``old'' has to be ``young.'' In fact, there's another way to look at it. The opposite of ``old'' can also be ``new.'' Pursuing this line of thought, we can do a great deal in the right direction and get beyond just trying to hang on to an elusive thing called ``youth.'' A growing plant adds newness every day: new roots, new branches, new leaves, new flowers. In a certain sense, ``to grow'' means to keep adding something new. You might even say that the expression ``to grow old'' is a contradiction in terms. You really can't grow old; you can only grow new. That's what growth is. But you and I aren't like plants, adding leaves and flowers. What kind of newness can we bring out day by day?
The Apostle Paul wrote about the importance of spiritual newness. In a letter to the Ephesians he spoke of the need to ``put off...the old man'' and to ``put on the new man.''1 We can all put on this ``new man'' -- which is our true selfhood, made in God's likeness -- through day-by-day spiritual growth. When we look to Christ Jesus as our Way-shower and endeavor each day to live more in accord with his teachings, we find our lives becoming new. We see more and more evidence of our pure spiritual individuality coming to light. Paul spoke encouragingly of the time when we will ``all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.'' At that time, he indicated, we will ``be no more children...but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.''2
No matter what our age, we can all find aspects of our lives where there is plenty of room for growth in Christian character. Perhaps we need to be more patient with family members or co-workers, less self-centered, more honest, or more willing to see and correct our faults. We might view our shortcomings as Paul apparently did -- as signs of childishness. They show our need to keep growing long after we have become adults, even quite mature adults as the world measures such things. This spiritual growth comes through daily communion with God and through a genuine effort to put aside old habits and traits that are unworthy of us and replace them with thoughts and acts that express a greater spiritual maturity -- that express more of who we really are. The Bible can be a helpful guide in this task. And God's law supports us in our efforts to grow, because spiritual development is a divine demand.
Spiritual growth can have a definite effect on the way we view ourselves in terms of aging. When someone is growing in Christian character and learning to know God better, he may find he has ceased to think of himself as someone who is growing old, because he knows he is actually growing new. He is putting off the old man and putting on the new. This new man is not produced by our growth but is already our true, spiritual identity. God created man as His own perfect image, and our spiritual growth reveals this ``new man.'' Speaking of the real man, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``Man in Science is neither young nor old.''3 And elsewhere she states: ``Truth makes a new creature, in whom old things pass away and `all things are become new.' Passions, selfishness, false appetites, hatred, fear, all sensuality, yield to spirituality, and the superabundance of being is on the side of God, good.''4
As we discover the joy of growing new, we find the path before us leading not toward declining years but toward an ever-expanding view of eternity.
1See Ephesians 4:22-24. 2Ephesians 4:13-15. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 244. 4Ibid., p. 201.
You can find more articles like this one in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. II Corinthians 5:17