You may remember the character Victor Meldrew from the TV Programme ‘One Foot in the Grave’. He seemed to be the grumpiest of grumps about everything and everyone around him. His catch-phrase became known throughout the land, do you remember it? ‘I don’t believe it!’
What are the things around you that make you want to shout ‘I don’t believe it?’ Is it when someone does not empty the bin, or you find another grey hair, or the fish and chip shop have run out of fish? You may wish to start your sentence by saying, ‘I don’t believe it when…..’
This is supposed to be a fun exercise as there are some things that make us exasperated that would not for someone else, but to acknowledge how we ‘tick’ so to speak can help us when thinking about growing older with grace.
Victor Meldrew does not exude grace and in the moments when he has to be kind and gracious to those around him the effort this takes appears to deflate him and take his energy completely.
If possible share this with one another in the group but in a supportive, loving and compassionate manner please! And if anyone of you would be considered a ‘grump’, do not worry, God has not finished with us yet!
Philippians 1:6 says
So remember, God has not finished with us yet!
As we consider growing older with grace the words of a song by Connie Harrington and Shawn Craig come to mind…
‘Your grace still amazes me, your love is still a mystery, each day I fall on my knees because your grace still amazes me. Oh patient Father, you make me whole. You are the author and the healer of my soul. What can I give you? Lord, what can I say? There’s no way to repay you only to offer you my praise.’
This leads our thoughts again to Isaiah:
If you have time to read the whole of Isaiah Chapter 30 you will see that this is a message of God’s exasperation and annoyance at a people who have gone astray. His own people are far away from him yet he draws them back and shows his graciousness to them in verse 18. In the NIV version it simply says that God shows them ‘his compassion’.
Possibly the key to growing older with grace is to grow in God’s compassion. Grace can be translated as ‘grateful and thankful’. When we cast our ‘thoughtnet’ wider than our own thoughts and perceptions, we live in the knowledge of others’ lives. I write this as Christmas fast approaches and having spent a day in a Salvation Army church packing away left-over
toys from the Parcel Appeal for next year. The lady who helped me is an asylum seeker. She has travelled from a war-torn country with her children, seeking safety and compassion. Her eyes are kind and her
smile is warm towards me, despite being a stranger to her, as she retells the story of her finding Christ through the work of the Salvation Army and how she has just signed her covenant to become a Soldier in the Salvation Army. I am blessed to spend time with her and two other young women who have also sought refuge in our country. Their stories lie untold but they know that no-one should live with a price-tag attached to their life. They treat me with utter respect and compassion despite my ignorance of a life they know
and have lived through. The terror, the pain, the isolation, the hunger for a better life, the travel from a distant land to this, their new home, is not displayed in anger or annoyance to me. No, what I see is a genuine compassion, a Christ-likeness, a grace that brings me tears of shame for the moments I feel a lack of grace towards others.
The lesson I was reminded of is that our circumstances cannot define who we are. Only Christ should define who we are and the verse from Philippians 1:6 reminds us that God who started a good work in us will complete it. We do not live this challenge on our own. Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2). I have not travelled by boat, plane or lorry to flee a war-torn land. I have not had nails put through my hands. So what is my response? To grow older with grace, the grace that God gives.
Growing older brings its challenges: grief, loss, poor health, lack of finances and we may want to shout, ‘I don’t believe it!’ and at times that is ok, God
understands our humanity. However, let us choose to grow older in love, in compassion, in patience – in Grace.
Think of a time when someone has exuded grace to you.
Take a moment to think back to the word that described you. Now think of a word that describes what you desire to be with God’s help. In silence, pray this word over yourself, asking God to complete this work in your life.
Pray the ‘Grace’ together:
‘May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all evermore. Amen.’
If possible bring some photographs of your extended family – thinking inclusively of those you consider family – whether blood relation or not.