God’s Grace Helps Us More Than Survive

God’s Grace Helps Us More Than Survive

Jim Stinson, Former Consultant on Older Adult Ministries


“A burden of these years is the temptation to cling to the times and things behind us rather than move to the liberating moments ahead.

A blessing of these years is the invitation to go light-footed into the here and now—because we spend far too much of life preparing for the future rather than enjoying the present.”

Joan Chittister, in her book, “The Gift of Years—Growing Older Gracefully,” offers this insight. Our older years are wasted if we keep looking backward, but fulfilling if we are open to new areas of growth, if we embrace the moment, and make life all we can. A tall order for many as they age because of physical, mental and other limitations. Yet her observation holds up under scrutiny.

I know so many older adults who accept what is happening to their bodies and minds gracefully and create a new way of living for themselves, sharing with others, making new friends, and trying new things. These people seem to have a wisdom nurtured through the years that serves as a living example of ‘The Gift of Years.’

It is the same wisdom found in a delightful movie about growing older, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Briefly, the movie is about six older English citizens who relocate, for various reasons, to an exotic hotel in India for the later years. All arrive the same day to discover the same reality: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” does not live up to their expectations.

Essentially, it is a dump, poorly managed and in a crowded noisy city. Nothing, not even the food, is familiar. They are faced with a choice. What to do about their disappointment and fear, being ‘stuck’ in a strange land? Quite a metaphor for aging!

Needless to say, they all respond differently, but eventually they discover the beauty, the thrill, and the purpose of being in this strange new land. Eventually they all adapt, contribute to the rebirth of the hotel and contribute to their own rebirth. The wisdom is expressed a number of times when one of the characters tells another, “Everything will be all right in 
the end . . . if it’s not all right then it’s not the end.”

Believing that to be true, one by one, the characters truly emerge from the cocoon of aging as beautiful, fully engaged people, like butterflies on the wing to one new adventure after another.

These characters remind us of what our faith teaches. With God the only real ending is a good ending. We need to be witnessing to this truth as we go about ministry with and to older adults. We need to be speaking the truth to those in their later years—the truth that says, limitations, frailty, and sickness may be a part of aging, but so is the possibility of learning and growing, discovering new ways of serving, and appreciating every moment of life. The truth that says advanced age may provide more time for memories, but it is also a God-given phase, for which grace is available to do more than simply survive.

Feel free to print or share with your congregation. © 2012 Rev. James Stinson