With quiet dignity the old olive tree stood. Having survived the ravages of time, it was now very wide in girth, gnarly and knotty. Several hundreds of years old, it stood in a garden called Gethsemane, its roots planted deep into the mountain soil where it lived.
If trees could talk they would tell of the times young lovers sat under their leafy boughs and spoke of the new life they soon would share. The olive tree in Gethsemane would tell of the day a Nazarene entered the garden with His followers and of the passionate way He cried out for deliverance from what lay ahead.
Yes, if trees could talk, the tales they would tell of men, women and children, some who sought refuge beneath their shade in times of trouble, tales of others who gathered there to share food and fellowship.
In modern society, in the United States of America, age is not venerated. That which is old is discarded. The elderly are a bother and must be “dealt with” by the young…for this society highly prizes youth.
Everything in American society is geared to touch and reach the young, to the point that even the elderly, now called seniors, must appear young even though they are not. When they are ready to rest in the twilight of their years, they must still be engaged in activity. Do not the elderly desreve honor and respect for bearing the heat of the battle? You know that I am speaking generally.
For a few years I have been noticing signs of aging in my physical body, at first it didn’t bother me, but of late I have begun to be more concerned about it. Today I read something that brought tears. Before I share it with you, I want you to know that I am approaching my 75th birthday. It is incredible to me as I feel like I am 30…on the inside.
It is a shock when I look in the mirror. In that regard, when I was a young woman my husband’s elderly Aunt shared an experience with me that she’d had the morning before, She told me that she looked into the mirror asked, “Who is that old lady looking at me?” At that time, I laughed, now I understand.
It matters that you understand that I am not talking about the restrictions of sickness or disease, but rather what people call the natural, normal signs of aging such as wrinkles, thinning hair or lack of strength to do what you once did effortlessly.
I have gone many places in the world, even into my 60’s. I have not lacked the physical ability to do what was required, so when I began to feel physical limitations, it was upsetting. I began to complain. For example, when I travel 10 hours on the train to see my children and come home from that journey, it is now taking me two days to regain my strength. It doesn’t feel right and I don’t like it. But, it has been the outward appearance of wrinkles on my face and thinning hair that really began to bother me. Call me vain if you want this is how I have felt.
Somehow, these things have made me feel “less than”. This could be because I was raised in the time when the “Star” system was in full swing in Hollywood, and the images portrayed by the movies and the lifestyle of the stars was the “norm”. (This, of course, was a fantasy world where women were perfect in appearance and men would sweep them off their feet, marry them and they would live happily ever after.) Now that I find my outward image changing, I have had increasingly emotional reactions to the changes. Perhaps this has some bearing on it, though I believe there may be other reasons as well.
Faced with these changes in my physical body, knowing that time and change come to all, I have been trying to discern what is normal and what is not, and whether I should just roll with the changes or resist them; my morning devotional time brought light to the subject in the picture of an old tree.
Karen O’Connor, on page 1122 of “The Grandmother’s Bible”, by Zondervan Publishing House, states that she and her husband were walking through the Patriarch Forest in California, “stopping here and there to comment on the shape or color or texture of these amazing specimens that were the only survivors in this soil for thousands of years.” She marveled that they were still standing in that barren place.
Karen goes on to say that these trees were not graceful like the willow or “tall and slender like a stately palm, but they were elegant in their own way. The ravages of age and weather had given them a beauty impossible to describe.” She continues to speak of how she had been “discounting” herself lately, “finding fault with the changes” in her body, when she suddenly had an insight that transformed her thinking.
“How is that that I could see beauty in the trees but not in myself?”, she asked. “Why is getting older a good thing for a tree, but a bad thing for me” Why do I look in the mirror and bemoan the wrinkles that line my face but see in the tree a quiet dignity that has nothing to do with shape or age?”
There it was. A truth that brings light to the darkness.
Who makes the decision that something has value and something has not? Who decides whether one person has value and another does not?
The answer is not another person, or society. Each of us was created with “certain inalienable rights”, among which are the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, according to the United States Constitution.
It is the Creator who determines appearance and value. The creator, God, placed such a high value on human beings that He put in place a plan to redeem us from the sin that came upon all men as a result of the fall into sin in Eden.
That being said, we are human and our emotional makeup is such that we are subject to the world around us and to the message that it is continually sending our way…that we don’t measure up.
Is there not a “quiet dignity”, or should there not be, in a person who has lived long upon the earth? Should we not revere and respect those who have weathered the ravages of time? Again, I speak generally.
The phrase, “quiet dignity” stood out and my prayer became, “Dear Lord, help me to regard this body I am living in with acceptance, without moaning about the ravages of time or complaining about the slowing down I am experiencing. I ask that I might live and walk in the “quiet dignity” of these old trees. It is in Jesus name that I ask this. Amen!
I am joyfully His,