Several months ago I found myself saying that at the age of three-score and ten plus three that whatever was to be in the future was “in the hands of the young.” I’ve said it a number of times since then and I’m ashamed of myself. What a cop-out!
There is a prevalent feeling expressed by those of us who have reached senior maturity to resent the work of time upon our human spirit. We look upon age as something of an insult. We refuse to use the appropriate words to describe ourselves, words such as adult, mature, experienced, yes, and even venerable. Instead we refer to ourselves (and no doubt others refer to us as well because of this attitude) with words like elderly, frail, stuffy, antiquated, worn-out, senile, or decrepit. Feeling this way suggests that we find no value in the future or ourselves. Time has robbed us, so we think, of being of any worth in the world. So we cop-out by proclaiming our pseudo-faith in the future, “which is in the hands of the young.” We lay upon the next generation the failures, burdens, and responsibilities we no longer want to carry.
Having rescued ourselves from our failures, burdens, and responsibilities for the world as it is by dumping on the shoulders of the young, we seek our escape from the relentless reality of age into a fantasy of youth. We go back and live in our childhood ideals and dreams and from these we construct our myths (everything was better back then) which provide us a hiding-place. The truth is, when we retreat into the past, we are actually saying that we have no faith in the future.
“Except,” Jesus said, “you become as little children” is sometimes used to justify this escape into childishness. We all know, however, that most children look forward to growing up. As Dorothy Sayers writes, “Except you become as little children, except you can wake on your fiftieth birthday with the same forward looking excitement and interest in life that you enjoyed when you were five, ‘you cannot see the Kingdom of God.’ One must not only die daily, but every day one must be born again.” There is no cop-out for us. We are alive and while it is day, we must do the work that is ours to do.