When the holder for the identification badge I wear at work broke a few years ago, I went to the security office to get a new one. While the security staff extolled the virtues of the new holder, I noticed how much darker my hair had been when my picture had been taken. A lot more gray had emerged since then.
At the time, my work was very hectic, and the hours were long. Some days I felt as if I were dragging myself to the office. What was worse was that shortly after I got my new badge holder, I noticed that whenever I walked, I creaked. This sound seemed to emphasize the fact that some of the people working for me were less than half my age. The creaking said, "You are old (creak), getting older (creak), and older (creak)." Soon I was having some trouble walking and, I was, well, feeling old.
For guidance, I turned to the writings of a profound spiritual thinker, Mary Baker Eddy. I've taken a lot of comfort from her insights because she discovered Christian Science in her late 40s and then went on to lead an incredibly active life. So what she wrote in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" grew out of her own life. The book isn't about how to feel better about being old, but how to realize that age can't actually touch your life - that you're only as old as you let yourself be.
This isn't a little mind game, however. It's about a totally different way of looking at life - going from the thought of people being born and then moving through various life cycles toward death, to the understanding that each of us is spiritual, created by a God who is infinite Life and who is the source of each individual's life. What that means in practice is that no one actually has to feel old or be old. Infinite Life is, in effect, living us each day, filling us with joy, peace, goodness. These are our natural states, and anything that would argue otherwise can be dismissed.
As Mrs. Eddy put it: "Except for the error of measuring and limiting all that is good and beautiful, man would enjoy more than threescore years and ten and still maintain his vigor, freshness, and promise.... Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness" (page 246).
I knew that when she was talking about "man," she was including both men and women - and since I am a woman, that meant me too. So I asked myself, Are my days unfolding "wisdom, beauty, and holiness"? Well, it seemed more as if they were unfolding pressure, burden, and weariness.
From this answer, I knew that I needed to be more proactive in thinking of myself as spiritual and joyful, as being in God's care. There's a passage in the book of Psalms that has strengthened my prayers when I am feeling "old": "O God, thou hast taught me from my youth: and hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works. Now also when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not" (Ps. 71:17, 18).
I began to look for evidence of God's care at home and at work. And I found this evidence as I was more alert to look for it. The result was that I was once again really looking forward to work, happy to be there, and not burdened by all the challenges we were facing. Physically, I felt in top form, too.
There was just one small problem: That darned creaking didn't go away! One night, after a busy day and with a couple more hours of work to go, I was walking (and creaking) back to my desk. Feeling a bit frustrated, I turned to God and asked, "Father, I feel fine, and I've prayed and my prayers have been answered. Why is the creaking still here?"
The thought came to me, "Look down." I stopped and looked down, but didn't see anything, so I started walking again. So did the creaking. Then I looked down at my new badge holder. As it swung with each step, it went "creak." Another step, "creak."
I had to laugh, but I was also grateful. The creaking had made me come to grips with the problems at work, which had really improved my days. Now, if my badge creaks, I'm reminded that I'm not "creaky" but joyful, always being cared for by God.
Thine age shall be clearer
than the noonday;
thou shalt shine forth,
thou shalt be as the morning.