“Those were the best days of my life,” sings Bryan Adams in his song, “Summer of ’69.”
The nostalgia of the song is found in a man’s reflection on his past; more specifically his high school years—a time of garage bands, young love and freedom. But if you can peel yourself away for a moment from your own personal strolls down memory lane that the song may bring up, ask yourself this question: were whatever days you are thinking of really the best days of your life?
A phrase like that sounds much like a resounding gong of a hopeless future. Is life really just a downhill slide into the grave as we age?
Today’s culture has some sort of allergic reaction to getting older. We want to stay young, both in appearance and in spirit. We want to live free and act free. Growing older seems like some type of curse that we can’t avoid, but we try everything in our power to delay it until the last possible moment.
Women get various types of plastic surgery or cosmetic treatments that turn their 40-year-old bodies into something remotely resembling that of a college co-ed. Men shirk every responsibility to a woman or, tragically, to a child in order to maintain their youth and their freedom.
Still, regardless of vain attempts to change our looks or lessen our responsibilities, we still get older. Is there any joy in that? Surely something good has to come from to unstoppable hourglass that constantly pushes us to another day, another month, another year.
But things shift when we look at the bigger picture. It’s important to understand that growing older is a blessing all by itself because it means God is giving us life. Meditate on that truth for a minute, and let it fully soak in. “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you” (Isaiah 46:4).
There are two big points to remember for those who are leery of aging. First, there are multiple blessings that come about as we grow older. Secondly, those blessings look much different as we age than they did in our teens and twenties.
Think back to your years as a teen: the things you would have considered blessings then were, most likely, all about you. You got an A on the algebra test. You got asked out by so-and-so. You made the winning shot during the final minutes of the basketball game and helped bring home the title. You got a late curfew to go to the big party Friday night.
The blessings that come with getting older do something almost miraculous: they shrink our selfishness. As we get past the rigors of college life, our relationships evolve greatly. We no longer have buddies down the hall to go hang out with on weekends. We don’t have roommates throwing parties three nights a week. We’re forced into real life scenarios that involve full-time work and big boy bills, also known as adulthood.
But that doesn’t mean our relationships can’t be fulfilling and purposeful. You may get involved with a local church and a small group. You dig into scripture weekly with others going through the same stage of “growing up” as you are. You dedicate some time to help with the youth group as a mentor, or serve with the church as a whole on various mission projects. Maybe you volunteer with some other organizations, helping with disadvantaged and poor people. You begin to see that life isn’t really all about you as you’ve been taught by the world, but instead blessings can come through your relationships with others.
Then maybe you’re someone who as they grow older is blessed with a spouse and children. Again, the idea of “different blessings” applies here. From my own life, I have been giving the insane responsibility of being married to a beautiful woman and raising two little girls. I say insane because my 18-year-old self would never have imagined the 32 year old me with a wife, two kids and a house. Understand, though, that these blessings are different. It’s not about me now. It’s about my family.
Growing older also means maturing. That means choosing wisdom over beauty, sensibility over sexy and being responsible over being crazy. For me it’s about choosing bran flakes over Fruit Loops. It’s trading in late Friday nights with the guys for early Saturday mornings with my girls. It’s giving up wasted time in front of the PlayStation for precious time hanging out with my wife.
In a culture so intent on making us into the perfect image of exactly what they want us to be, it’s important we recognize our image is already perfectly created by a loving, gracious God. His plan is not for us to linger in the past, dwelling on what was and what could have been. 2 Timothy 2:22 tells us to “flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.” God desires for us to love Him fully, so He may in turn use us to love fully our neighbors, friends and family.
Growing older isn’t easy. God knows that. But He doesn’t want us to look back and think of our past as “the best days of our lives.” He wants us to look forward with hope for the future He has for us.
You don’t know what blessings are in store. It may be a new career venture you never would have imagined. It could be a calling to minister to orphans abandoned in a third world country. It may be two tiny hands reaching up to you saying “hold me daddy!”
Think about it: the best days of your life might not have even happened yet. Don’t miss out on them by looking back on yesterday or trying to stay “forever young.”