Any student of physiology and anatomy can tell you that metabolism consists of two parts: “anabolism, building up; and catabolism, tearing down.” During the early years of life anabolism exceeds catabolism. We grow and glow with health and exuberance. As the years go by, however, catabolism exceeds anabolism. Today, on birthday number three score ten plus four (74) I am conscious of the fact that I am not what I used to be. The smoothly running machine I once was (well, I thought so) is now showing signs of used-car-ness. The odometer confirms that I’ve traveled many a mile and one can assume (as with any used vehicle) that some collisions (call them accidents if you like) and engine wear and tear and breakdowns have occurred. With a used car, you can be sure there will be issues. On this 74th birthday, I am aware that my used-car-ness will probably include gallstones, arthritis, and sagging jowls. As one elderly gentleman, referring to the catabolism of age, once told me, “My prostate glands are a’swelling.” This male phenomena is almost impossible to escape and creates new nocturnal habits, including frequent trips to the bathroom. All this is natural and a part of that catabolism business.
Life is short. Growing older cannot be avoided. Catabolism is inescapable and is part of God’s creation. There is no way out of it.
However, mind, spirit and soul abide (so far). These are greater than the body with its many infirmities. This is what Jesus was trying to tell us when he encouraged us to seek first His Kingdom (love, mercy, justice, sensitivity, concern for others, etc.). There is no evidence to suggest that chronological age brings greater Christian maturity. In fact, age may bring spiritual hardening of the arteries. (Have you met any grumpy old religious men lately?) Growing old may be the time when we stop caring as much as we should about those kingdom values, and we discover a heart problem unable to be cured by the doctor. In growing old we may even learn the truth that we don’t have the truth. We must learn to overcome catabolism of the body with our mind, spirit and soul, in order to continue to grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God.