Repost from April 3, 2010
Old isn’t the number of years you’ve lived; it isn’t an AARP membership; it isn’t playing bingo; and it certainly isn’t life experience. Old, as an overall concept, is a state of mind. It’s the perception that says “I’ve been through so much” or “I’ve experienced ENOUGH change” or “I just can’t…(fill in the blank)”. It’s the belief that most of your life is over or that you’ve “given the best years of your life” to such-and-such or so-and-so instead of believing “the best is yet to come.”
The song Live Like Your Dying by Kris Allen struck me this week when I heard it on the radio. Living like your dying might be a good concept for those hard-nosed, unfeeling adults who need to break down and say “I love you” or fix their messed up family but overall, people who live like their dying are hopeless, careless, and ruled by their emotions. That’s pretty much the essence of the Emo Movement, isn’t it? “Get in friggin’ touch with your feelings man… don’t hold back.” It sounds very esoteric and artsy-chill but why would anyone want to get in touch with loneliness, pain, fear, etc? Chill wasn’t supposed to refer to mortuary freezing, was it?
It’s not like there’s something wrong with expressing yourself; deeply meaningful art and communication is the higher brain function and creativity exemplifying that we’re made in the image of a creator; but you have to ask yourself if you’re expressing young or old, living or dying? What point are you trying to make with what you’re saying, doing, and wearing anyway?
EXPRESS YOURSELF! (where does your shipping label say you’re going?)
It’s commonplace to think any expression is good. We have to spit it out or choke on our lies of omission. That’s the belief. The opposite is actually true. In the words of Jesus, “What comes out of [our mouths] makes us unholy” and puts us in the camp with the dead and dying spiritually. This is because “…the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’.” (Matthew 15) (By the way, he’s not saying “don’t talk” – he’s warning us to keep a lid on our self-expression. Put his thoughts in your mouth and you’re always clean. No worries. Express away.)
“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in (model, strut, exhibit, express) the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.” I John 1:5-7
So if our LIVES are our greatest work of art, our daily exhibition of who we are, who’s lying? If you claim to be a follower of Christ, are you living or dying by the tell-tale heart you commit to paper, speak aloud, or entertain in private? If your everyday expressions are those things the Bible associates with DEATH (fear, pain, anger, insecurity, pride, loneliness, etc.) according to I John you’re either lying or deluded when you say, “I’m a Christian.” You say you’re going to heaven but your express label says Hell.
Once upon a time, a young man who was still under 20 years old came to my house for a visit while he popped pain pills for a sore throat. He’d taken nearly a third of the bottle when my mom indicated that it was only a sore throat. He must have felt disrespected because he responded with, “I have dealt with more pain than anyone in this house, except maybe YOU since YOU went through childbirth!”
The guy in pain left shortly thereafter, never to be seen or heard from again… and we all lived happily ever after. In reference to people like him, I made up a saying that has carried me through a lot of difficult friendships –
I don’t want to be surrounded by dying. It’s too catchy.
The fight for LIFE is different. As a believer in Jesus Christ, it’s impossible not to love and respect those who have truly fought through trouble and hurt to find hope and healing (they’re doing what the Bible says in sharing the suffering of Christ “who for the JOY set before Him endured the cross.” Hebrews 12). But then there are the people who victimize themselves by their own mindset and use it as a tool for sympathy, crying “woe is me” over the loud speakers. Self-inflicted pain doesn’t count as martyrdom. And yes, the more you express the pain and not the joy or reasons to be grateful (you can find just as many of those in any given situation), the more a part of you the pain becomes. The guy chugging the bottle of pain pills probably had a really sore throat but, good grief, hasn’t everyone had a sore throat?! He was already using the decrepit argument of “I’ve been through so much” and he wasn’t even 20!
Please don’t think I’m age-biased but I’d rather be hanging out with a person more than twice my age if he or she loves to laugh. My best friend is older than my mom… she’s a 60 year-old widow who does crazy things like wear a clown nose to work to prank her co-workers or go out with me to shop, have dinner, or see concerts. She’s so in-love with life that she’s not at all focused on the death of a man she passionately loved. You could say that’s calloused but, if you really understand love, you understand that it doesn’t stop when a loved one dies. How better to remember the life of someone you loved than the pure, beautiful expression of LIVING? If you’re constantly mourning and dwelling on death, you’re celebrating their death. How morbid.
Life and youth is about way more than experiences and numbers. I say we throw out the stupid numbers and start adding up what counts. My friend’s version of ”old” is a million times better than most people’s ”young.” Our generation needs hope and innocence even more than we need beautiful, toned bodies, sexy haircuts, or tight skin.
Christians like to quote the feel-good verse in II Corinthians 5 that says “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a NEW creation, the OLD has gone, the NEW has come.” That sounds so nice but do we even read the rest of that passage? How about including, “We make it our goal to please [God]…for we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body”? You’re a new creation, huh? What proof do you have to back that up?
If you buy something new, it isn’t dull and it certainly doesn’t whine and squeak around like it’s ancient; hopefully, it reflects the light and tackles obstacles like a defensive linebacker. Yes, I’m making a point here. As Luke Brandon said in the movie, Confessions of a Shopaholic, “Cost and worth are two very different things.”
If you saved up for years to buy something and that new pc or stereo system groaned around or operated like it was built in the dark ages, you’d not only be upset, you’d probably take it back.
Are we doing what we’re designed to do? I was “bought with a price” (I Corinthians 6:20) but am I worth it? An innocent man’s death on a cross was a pretty hefty cost. I could never be worth that but I’ll always give Him my best.
Ephesians 4 put it perfectly: “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds.” The deception here is that expressing death and dull apathy is young and cool (no one will contest the fact that a dead person is cool to the touch). Life is found “in the attitude of your minds.” This is the fountain of youth, my friends. Age has nothing to do with it; life is expressed in “love, joy, peace, patience,” etc. (Galations 5:22-23); newness starts with your mind and spirit.
You have a promise from the Maker of the Universe that if you employ the thoughts and actions He designed you for, you’ll never get old.