In February of 2022, NFL quarterback Tom Brady made headlines when he announced his retirement. After all, he is the greatest quarterback of all time; even residents of Indianapolis who love Peyton Manning can admit that much. If anything, Brady performed at a high level longer than most would have expected; 44 years old is practically ancient for someone in his line of work. And even though he had lost his most recent Super Bowl, it could be said that Brady went out on top.
But then Brady made headlines again in March. He announced that his retirement was already over, and he would return for (at least) one more NFL season. Surely Brady wanted one more shot at a Super Bowl victory; however, those hopes did not come to fruition. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers stumbled to a mediocre 8-9 regular season record, barely made the playoffs, and were promptly defeated by the Dallas Cowboys. And for the first time in his career, Brady looked less than great.
There’s an old saying in sports: “Father Time is undefeated”. It’s the way fans and commentators come to grips with the reality that eventually, even the most elite athletes will eventually lose a step, fall behind their younger competition, and face the fact that they simply can’t keep up the way they used to. One day, the people we’re accustomed to seeing perform incredible feats of strength, agility, and stamina will get old.
I just turned 34 years old, and I’m not totally oblivious to this! My hair is much grayer than it was when I first came to PVCC. My knees sound like popcorn all the time, and I have to wear braces when I go out for a run. And though I used to be able to burn the candle at both ends when needed, it’s now common for me to fall asleep on the couch at 9:30 PM.
But if I can already see the effects of aging on my own body, I know there are others at our church who have even more evidence. In recent months people within our church have had surgeries performed, joints replaced, tests done, spots removed, treatments applied, prescriptions added, diagnoses given, and second opinions sought. People have suffered sudden injuries, gradual breakdowns, and chronic pains. We’ve chosen (or been forced) to retire from work, hire out chores, and stop doing things we used to be able to do. Why? Because we’re getting older. We’re getting slower. We’re getting weaker. Father Time is undefeated.
Thankfully, God is not silent about the challenges of aging. In Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, “the preacher” (who may or may not have been King Solomon, depending on which Biblical scholar you talk to) discusses “the evil days” of aging. He uses vivid imagery to describe how our bodies break down as we get older. There are allusions to our eyesight failing, our bones getting frailer, our teeth falling out, our hearing deteriorating, and our minds losing their edge. As he does throughout Ecclesiastes, the preacher concludes: “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
Of course, that’s not the conclusion we should come to as we age. However, Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 is helpful in this sense: God is aware of the hardships we face as we get older. He is not oblivious to the pains, sorrows, and losses we experience as the years add up. And though Jesus did not live long enough to get any senior discounts at local restaurants, we still believe that he can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). And because Jesus still lives today, we can have hope and purpose even as our bodies fail us.
Sure, you might not be able to do all the things we once did, but there are unique strengths that older saints can contribute to the Body of Christ. Many of you are simply more spiritually mature than the rest of us whippersnappers, and we need your example. All of you have significantly more accumulated wisdom, and we need your perspective. Some of you have more time to dedicate to prayer, and we CERTAINLY need that! We also need to be reminded that Father Time is undefeated against people like us too, and though we may be further away from his unwelcome interruptions, we should remember that he won’t stay away forever. In fact, we need these things so much – churches need people like you so much – that I would be hesitant to serve in a church that didn’t have a healthy amount of older congregants.
Aging is a hard battle that many in our church are facing right now. If you’re one of those in the midst of it, I hope you’ll be encouraged to press on in your faith, serve as an example to your brothers and sisters in Christ, and embrace your purpose within God’s Kingdom (because you do still have one, even in this stage of life). If you’re not one of those in the midst of it, don’t take for granted the unique strengths that older believers have, neglect the gifts they can provide, or fail to show care and compassion for them.
And of course, we should all remember that while Father Time is undefeated in this life, this life isn’t all there is. Our God exists outside of the limits of time – and one day, all who believe in the crucified and resurrected Lord Jesus will too.