In my work with the elderly, I have noticed how spirituality affects them.
Every person has spiritual hunger, but many don’t see it as such. Some come into old age with the traditional model of faith and find satisfaction and security in it. Others are like old Nicodemus who was curious and asked questions and was not satisfied with the status quo. He was transformed.
Old age provides opportunity to reopen and regain interest in spiritual things. In her book TOUGH TRANSITIONS, the author, Elizabeth Harper Neeld, Ph.D., summarizes the final transitions, and it sounds like a crescendo of spiritual discovery: “Thriving, reaching hope, continuing from hope to faith and creating joy.”
There you have it. Have faith again. Dance again for joy. Live again in the Spirit. Old age brings a tremendous chance to revive, renew, and rediscover true spiritual life.
The spiritual values of your childhood will resurface from the waters of old age. Those values will float and they will come near you again and be tossed by the waves toward you. Reach out your hand and draw them in. And even though the spirituality of old age is seasoned with the experiences and wisdom of many years, the Spirit is ever ready for fresh things, new discoveries, and novel adventures.
Eyes are wide open, and ears are straining to hear fresh revelations from the scriptures.
Old age can be full of new discoveries of truth that have laid silent in the heart. Old age is a time to reexamine faith that is there from confirmation time and has been waiting, like an old gold mine, to be found and mined. Old age is a time to turn the page and read the stories of yesterday, again, with new glasses.
Mysteries can be solved. Questions that beg for solutions can be asked again. Life can be reviewed and reexamined in the light of new truth. Experiences can be revisited and reinterpreted. Memories can be reborn from the darkness of yesterday and the confusion of tomorrow and brought into perspective. Forgiveness can flow and be received. Relationships can be healed. Anger can be dissolved, and love can splash again in the waters of joy and compassion. Hurts can be resolved, and chasms can be bridged with love and grace.
The garden of old age can bloom again with all the flowers of your imagination and fill the life of children and grandchildren with a legacy that can never be surpassed by money, fame of fortunes. Let old age be your friend that brings you to decisions you have postponed for a lifetime but now are again knocking on your door.
A great source of peace and harmony comes from the spiritual discipline of reflection, reflecting on life, on past successes and triumphs, but also on challenges, failures, and mistakes. In a recent newspaper article (Star Tribune, Thursday, March 20) entitled, “Why older often means wiser,” Phyllis Korkki writes, “one must take time to gain insights and perspective from one’s cognitive knowledge.”
It is from that reflection (usually with another trusted person) that wisdom emerges and “wise people are able to accept reality as it is, with equanimity.” Combining spirituality with reflection becomes the powerhouse of peace and harmony in an older person’s life.
Allowing the Holy Spirit to shed light on the past and to reconsider questions and potential answers or to discover that underneath all the uncertainty and mixture of ambiguity of life is the massive rock of Jesus Christ , brings great rest and peace and calms our fears, and it makes us ready for that final leap.
Old age spirituality makes us young at heart.
By Helmar Heckel, the chaplain at Good Samaritan Society in Waconia.