An elderly couple were sitting on their deck chairs watching the beautiful sunset and reminiscing about the good old days. The wife turned to the husband and said, ‘Honey, do you remember when we first started dating and you used to just casually reach over and take my hand?’
The husband looked over at her, smiled, and obligingly took her aged hand in his.
With a wry little smile, the wife pressed a little further, ‘Honey, do you remember how, after we were engaged, you’d sometimes lean over and suddenly kiss me on the cheek?’
The husband leaned slowly towards his wife and gave her a lingering kiss on her wrinkled cheek.
Growing bolder still, the wife said, ‘Honey, do you remember how, after we were first married, you’d kind of nibble on my ear?’
The husband slowly got up from his rocker and headed into the house. Alarmed, the wife asked, ‘Honey, where are you going?’
The husband replied, ‘To get my teeth!’
All joking aside, the ageing process is often viewed negatively in our society. An ageing population is sometimes spoken of as a drain on the public purse. Products are geared towards under-thirties who allegedly have more disposable income (or are just more susceptible to advertising campaigns), leaving older people feeling left behind.
Many seek to prolong their youth through fitness programmes, cosmetics and surgery. They hope to fend off the inevitable fact that we all get old.
As we age, we may not be able to run, jump or skip as we used to, stay up as late, or keep up with the latest fads (do we really want to?), but we are no less important or acceptable in God’s eyes.
God doesn’t see us as an economic burden or less relevant to today’s world. We are an organic part of His creation, known by name, and loved.
Imagine an apple or, if you have some apples in a fruit bowl, you might want to pick one up. As this fruit grows and ages, it ripens, becoming sweeter and more beautiful — revealing what it was created to become.
Through our experiences, we too ripen and mature with the years. (You could compare yourself to cheese too, but let’s stick with the image of a fresh, rosy apple!)
Richard Rohr from the Centre for Action and Contemplation (CAC) speaks of our ripening when he relates it to faith. He says, ‘To live in trustful faith is to ripen; it is almost that simple,’ adding, ‘We learn how to hope as we ripen.’
Read that again. It is beautiful in its simplicity. It also reframes the way we perceive ageing. It is a revolutionary, countercultural world view, but one that for many years was firmly rooted in societies from the Native Americans to the indigenous populations of northern Australia where we work.
A different perspective
Our faith gives us a unique perspective on life. Rather than living in denial of ageing, or retreating from the world, we are free to accept that we are growing older, and in doing so are reaching the pinnacle of our lives. We have a vital part to play. We are ripening into the sweet, tasty fruit that God created us to be. The end of life is the apogee of our journey. We were made to reach full maturity.
Like the apple, our bodies will one day fall and return to the earth from which they came. Unlike the apple, that is not the end. Our hope is that once we fall, we are caught in the loving arms of our Father God and reunited with Him. Hallelujah!
MAF as an organisation is ripening too. We continue to mature, to be transformed, and use the experience of more than 75 years to our advantage. We continue to place our ‘trustful faith’ in God and ‘learn how to hope’ with every flight, every gift, every prayer, and every life changed.
We ripen through the introduction of new technology like solar energy panels, flight simulators, solar powered audio Bibles and upgraded avionics.
We ripen by expanding our reach as we open new landing strips and programmes, add new aircraft, and build new hangars.
We ripen through recruiting more staff — both national and international — to fly, fix and fuel our planes, as well as providing the office support we need.
We ripen through adapting our practices to become more efficient and effective.
And, most importantly, we ripen by keeping close to God through His Word, praying together and seeking His will in all that we do.
Why not spend some time this week seeking God for a new perspective on the season of life in which you find yourself?
Remember that, with every day that passes, we have an opportunity to embrace our ripening, and to be a part of MAF’s ripening through prayer, giving and service.
Together, we seek to stay true to the calling of Jesus Christ; to follow Him, to abide in Him, and to produce much — ripe — fruit.