A Positive Perspective on “Getting RIPE”!
Among the phases of life is chronological maturity: aging, if you will. Even if we resist it, if we live long enough, we will slide, albeit reluctantly, into the final phase of this mortal life on Planet Earth. Some call that stage of life your “sunset years.” I prefer to call them “sunrise years”: since we are Christians, we don’t face growing darkness; instead we anticipate dawn and Eternal life with God. “The child is father of the man…The last of life for which the first was made,” a famous poet wrote.
May I substitute “season” for “phase” for the purpose of the following thoughts? I remember myself as a vacillating teenager always excited about something new or different, and my parents using the word "phase" in a disparaging way. “Oh, it’s just a phase that Leona is going through. She’ll get over it.” We don’t “get over” our life phases; we grow into them and go through them. We don’t have the luxury of tripping lightly through the tulips of each chronological stage from youth to maturity. Like it or not, they are defined by time, and human time is divided into seasons of life. Each provides its own opportunities, responsibilities, joys and challenges.
I’ve often used the term "seasoned saints” to refer to Christians who are maturing chronologically. The apostle Paul addressed all Christians as “saints” not because they wore halos, were sanctimonious above their fellow mortals, or had achieved perfection. The Bible simply uses the word to refer to believers in Christ living on earth or in heaven. Also, I don’t restrict the term to the departed who are canonized by the Catholic Church because of their heroic virtue or extraordinary holiness.
Let’s explore the treasures of that season of life that is finally approaching ripeness in wisdom, experience, and responsibility—and hopefully, holiness and devotion to our Lord Jesus Christ and the Church which He established for our nurture.
Delving into the dictionary meaning of being seasoned is like digging into a rich gold mine! The word season is a derivative of the Middle English, sesoun, Old French, se(i)on, and Latin word sation meaning “a sowing time.” That root meaning in itself is significant to the chronologically mature period of our lives:
We are seasoned in the sense of experienced. We have done a lot of living which we can generously share with others for their benefit. (But only when we are asked!)
Another meaning of seasoned is to be toughened by conditions, like wood. “Hardened and rendered immune to shrinkage, warping, etc.” We are durable because we have lived long enough to learn to endure the adversities of life through trust in God.
Seasoned also means heightened or improved in flavor by the addition of herbs, spices and the like. Good cooks add just the right seasoning in the proper amount to enhance the taste. God is seasoning us all the time, adding this and that to increase His joy in us and our pleasure in Him and our usefulness for His Kingdom. As we age we shouldn’t become like salt that has lost its savor.
A season is, of course, a time of the year—four distinct seasons in certain parts of the globe. Human beings also experience four seasons of life although somewhat overlapping. God expects different things of us in different time periods of life. He intends that we should live fully in the present at whatever season we find ourselves. God has allowed some of us to see many seasons come and go; we have gained a perspective that as good stewards we should sow into our posterity.
“In due season we shall reap if we faint not” the Scripture promises. Due season always seems to be off in the future somewhere, sometime other than right now. We spent a lifetime tilling, sowing, watering, and cultivating. In our latter season we are even more eager to reap because time does not seem to be on our side. But God’s timing is not the same as our timing. Just as there is a due date for the birth of a baby that requires a prescribed sequence of growth to take place in the womb, so God has a due season for the fullness of some things He wants to do in us and through us in the lives and circumstances of others. Let’s keep our eyes open for our due season.
“To everything there is a season” the writer of Ecclesiastes declares. He proceeds to detail many of the milestone events of life with contrasts: “…a time to…and also a time to….” In our advanced years we acknowledge God’s wisdom to bring us through many of those opposite seasons to balance our lives.
When a fruit is in season, it is ripe, mellow, and at the peak of its essence. We hope that can be said of us. We should not bemoan the fact that we are aging; instead we should revel in our opportunity to "bear fruit, more fruit, and much fruit" according to Jesus’ desire and plan for the aging. The Psalmist compared the mature godly person with a palm tree that bears fruit into its hundredth year. “…They will flourish in the courts of our God; they will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:12-15)
Arriving at our “fullness of years” is no excuse to become slack in active witness for our Lord. The Scriptures exhort us to be available to speak up for Him anytime, anywhere, “in season and out of season.” despite increasing limitations perhaps of strength, health, or finances. To advance in age does not give us license to retreat because of age.
Youth and middle age have no monopoly on seeking new horizons. Let’s emulate seasoned Caleb in the Old Testament who, already well into his eighties, didn’t accept that he was “over the hill.” He asked God for another big hill (mountain) to possess. Let’s sprinkle seasoning on one another to encourage mountain climbing rather than slip back down our already attained hills. God has equipped us with spiritual wings to lift us over our valleys of circumstances and limitations when they try to drag us down. Our advancing years can be the most creative and productive of our lives. Let’s expect our due season right around the next corner. “The best is yet to come” can become a reality instead of a pious platitude.
If we try to turn back the clock or get stuck in the rut of yesterday, we will miss the joy of passing on to the next generation the legacy of life’s richness in Christ. Let’s join the apostle Paul in declaring, ”My entire attention is on the finish line as I run toward the prize to which God calls me—life on high in Christ Jesus. All of us who are spiritually mature must have this attitude….It is important that we continue on our course no matter what stage [phase, season] we have reached.” (Philippians 3:14-16)
After all, we’re in the SENIOR CLASS and we’re revving up toward “Commencement”!