A.W. Tozer once said, “Here’s a test to see if your mission in life is finished—if you’re still alive, it’s not.” That quote doesn’t appear in this book, but it easily could have.
I’m getting to that age where I have to at least start thinking about many of the specific issues in this book—and most of my friends are even closer. Even without my own daily reminders, though, Ecclesiastes 7:2 reminds us, “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” Thus this book serves as a reminder to all of us, regardless of age, to “lay it to heart”—and more importantly, do something with it—while we still can. And, that “while we still can” extends far longer than we often think.
Johann Christoph Arnold. Rich in Years: Finding Peace and Purpose in a Long Life. 192p., $12.00, Plough Publishing House.
Arnold, grandson of Bruderhof founder Eberhard Arnold and now well into his 70s himself, writes with the grace, clarity and energy he demands of his readers. Despite the physical and sometimes mental limitations aging can bring, Arnold asserts that everyone has a purpose that can be lived out until our last day on earth, and encourages each of us to forget about what we can no longer do and get on with what we can do:
Just as we fear getting old, we also fear dying. But we will never fully conquer these fears until we realize that we were not just made for this world, but for something greater. If we see death as a stepping stone into another world – as part of a continuum of the human experience and not as the end of it – we can better deal with it.
Although the individual chapters would be considered topical—addressing such issues as loneliness, dementia, accepting the increasing lack of independence/mobility, finding reconciliation and peace with friends and family, and of course “saying goodbye”—they thankfully don’t read that way. The feel is actually quite warm and meditative, and regularly illustrated with stories or friends and relatives who’ve lived out, and through, the ideas and issues being dealt with here.
In short, and to end with the author’s own words: “Growing older can be a gift, but only if we surrender ourselves to God’s plan. Then we can stop complaining about things we can’t do any more and realize that God is finding new ways to use us.”