IVP - Strangely Dim - Older Than a Boulder

July 16, 2004

Older Than a Boulder

By David A. Zimmerman

I turned thirty-four this summer, which means, among other things, that next year I’ll be eligible to be president of the United States. Which means, among other things, that I am old.

Oh, I’m not oooooolllllllddddd. I still have my teeth and all my original ball joints. But I’m entrenched in my mid-thirties, which is far and away not young. In fact, by some calculations I’m one year from middle-age, which is funny, because by some calculations I’ve just left my extended adolescence.

Your thirties are kind of like aging hors d’oeuvres—not in the sense that you really would be better off in a refrigerator, but more like you’re getting your aging feet wet. It’s like you’ve turned eighteen but still have four years of school to get used to the idea that you have to work for a living. I still listen to the rock ’n’ roll music, I still leave my shirt untucked whenever possible, and I haven’t started leaving my dress socks on while I mow the yard.

But though I’m not quite old enough to have fathered some of my coworkers—at least within the bonds of holy matrimony—I am certainly old enough to have babysat a growing percentage of them. I’m old enough that I need to have my pop-culture references checked for coolness. I’m old enough that no major industries care much about my purchasing power.

Aging traditionally has frightened me just about as much as death. I haven’t been able to decide whether I hope I get old before I die, or whether I hope I die before I get old. Some nights I wonder about death; other nights I wonder about how I’ll handle life when I’m in my sixties, or when I’m in my eighties. I have experiences with older friends that make me more or less confident in my ability to live life to the full when I am well-advanced in years: The eighty-year-old elder from my church, who is twice-widowed but fondly recalls two silver wedding anniversaries and is still an active member of his community, inspires me to face my future boldly. The eighty-year-old man at the barbershop, whom no one ever visits and who has a hard time getting his groceries and who has aches and pains all over his body, fills me with dread. What if I end up like the one, and not the other? What if I die tomorrow?

Of course, being a Christian I ought not be frightened by death; I should wait in joyful hope, confident in the promise of the resurrection. But I don’t like the unknown, and we’ve been told just enough about the afterlife to make it sound fanciful but ambiguous. Am I going to spend eternity singing? walking around in forest glens, stopping to smell the roses? Will I be put to work? Will I be healthy in heaven, or will I carry my own aches and pains with me? Is it better for me to enter heaven while I’m young or when I’m old?

Maybe I’m overthinking this. I’m still only thirty-four, for Pete’s sake. I can’t even be president yet.

* * *

Check out the June 28, 2004, installment of Lin’s Bin, an audio-essay by Chicago DJ Lin Braehmer, for another perspective on aging.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at July 16, 2004 8:51 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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