Thursday, July 31, 2008

Birthday 101

Last Saturday evening I attended a birthday party for a grand, old lady, celebrating her 101st birthday. As you can imagine, there were many toasts, speeches and well wishes for the birthday girl. And as can be expected, people were asking her: “What is your secret of your long life?” And Rosa’s response was always: “I don’t know...”

It was amusing to hear the questions asked of Rosa: what did she do to live so long and look much younger than her years? What are the foods she loves and eats? Is she vegetarian? Did she smoke or drink alcohol?

People discussed among themselves what they thought would give long life: the foods we eat, the consuming of alcohol or not, meditation, Bible reading and prayer, honesty and simplicity of mind. Wisely, Rosa did not claim right living, no smoking of tobacco, no consuming of alcohol and the usual verbiage concerning longevity.

This lady, who has seen her great-great grandchildren looks like a person 80 years of age for the most and, by God’s grace, she looks at television without glasses, keeps an intelligent conversation and has survived colon cancer just five years ago.

What makes one person live to the age of 101 and beyond, usually surviving illness, sorrow and difficult times, while others are dying at a much younger age? I have seen people who were ill, in the jaws of death, spat out again for another lease of life. I have seen people who seemed well and just went to bed and never got up again. All of this is a mystery, too much closed for us to unlock.

Concerning old age: despite the usual aches and pains, there are some benefits to old age, for example, many are the life lessons learned and most issues of life are not needed to be speculated upon any more. Too, many elderly folk enjoy watching their family grow, keeping tally of the grand children and great-grandchildren with a sense of self-fulfilment

What is the mystery of old age? What is the mystery of life as a whole? Each of us is a mystery—-our birth, life-existence and death are all parts of the one grand mystery called life that we experience day by day. And hinting at the fullness and mystery of life, Jesus taught that “there is more to life than the things we possess...” (Luke 12:15). This indicates that there is much we do not know about life.

All life is a mystery. In the song “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life,” Rida Johnson Young wrote that she found the mystery of life and knew the secret of it all. The song is as follows:

Ah! sweet mystery of life, at last I've found thee;
Ah! I know at last the secret of it all;
All the longing, striving, seeking, waiting, yearning,
The burning hopes, the joys and idle tears that fall!
For 'tis love, and love alone, the world is seeking;And 'tis love, and love alone, that can repay;
Tis the answer, 'tis the end and all of living,
For it is love alone that rules for aye!

NOTE: The song “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life” was written by Rida Johnson Young and set to music by Victor Herbert.

What is the secret of life? There is no known secret of life—-especially long life. If that were so then there would have to be a secret to a short existence. And no one knows anything about those two occurrences. From the moment we enter this land of the living, our passport is stamped for departure at some time, whether we are aware of that time or not.

The secret and mystery of it all are in our Creator’s mind and hands, and His ways are past finding out (Romans 11:33).

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