Will Willimon borrows from Shakespeare’s King Lear as a profound illustration of the wreckage of old age lived as a season where responsibility is relinquished but control remains tightly grasped. The result is personal and relational wreckage.
While the circumstance is tragic, the true tragedy is Lear’s character, the traits of which are not new, they simply enter a season which amplifies their faults; disciples of Jesus should walk humbly so that the lessons about our character which the season teaches can be well learnt.
While ageing may not bring out the best in us or the worst in us, ageing often magnifies tendencies that were present in our characters throughout our lives. Sometimes it’s only in our later years that our chickens come home to roost.
For Christians, ageing can be a call for increased attentiveness to and engagement with God. We believe that in Christ we are not destined to end alienated from those we love, raging and impotent, cursing our fate, at the mercy of a violent storm that sweeps all away. The One who loved us into life loves us to the end. God is with us as we go into life’s last age, transforming our fate into our destiny.
William H Willimon, Aging – Growing Old In Church, Baker Academic, 2020, pgs 22-23.