From the Nov/Dec, 2014 issue of Touchstone


The Best Years of Life by S. M. Hutchens

The Best Years of Life

About thirty years ago, when I was playing in a park with my little daughters, an old woman said to me, "You'd better enjoy this—these are the best years of your life." As I recall, I made some polite rejoinder and moved away, having no desire to converse with someone who had just announced she was miserable and resented it.

Now and then as I grow older, the children having grown and moved away and the bones creaking more every year, her remark returns to mind and must be dealt with. There is a sense in which she was right, but what she said tempts with of a kind of morbidity to which we should not succumb. It is the sort I see in the people who spend hours in old high-school yearbooks reliving what they now, having failed in life, recognize as their best years, times filled with life and hope they now have lost.

There is a kindred phenomenon in which older people who can afford it, cringing in the sight of imminent death, rage at the dying of the light not by complaining, but by making clowns of themselves pretending to be young. My wife and I are receiving a great deal of advertising aimed at this group, embarrassing and insulting because it seeks profit by helping people become useless vessels of self-amusement through an event called "retirement," which no Christian should ever think about doing as long as he has breath in his body and his wits about him. Our vocation (whatever we have done for a living) is to divine service as long as we are on this earth; the holiday is later.

True Sustenance for Old Age

Following the wisdom we have been given in Scripture will mean that all during the fat years we are laying up stores for the lean ones, in anticipation of our deliverance. As young people, we should be learning what we need to be old, that is to say, how to grow great in spirit as the accretions of age in experience, wisdom, and pain are laid upon a person who remains in spirit young—and by this I don't mean someone who through fear plays the fool by not acting his age, but who through faith has not lost anything he ever was, someone in whom the child with his faith and the young man with his joy still exists with every age added to his years, and by whom the old man is sustained. In doing this, we honor God by joining the passion of our Lord.

The Son of God died on the cross in his early thirties, about the same time in life I was playing in the park with my children. One of the things he was doing there was becoming as old as a man can be in the span of a few hours. Among those who taunted him was that old woman who told him, as he was doing it, that his best years were behind him. He refused to believe her, first because he knew what he was doing—he had spent his young life fortifying himself for this terrible journey, steadfastly refusing the retirement constantly offered him by the devil—but most especially because of the joy that was set before him if he was able to endure, which he did, God be praised. 


S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor and the book review editor of Touchstone.

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