The gifts of ageing


A number of people missed an ecumenical retreat called “The Wisdom Years.” Some have asked for the one-day retreat to be repeated.

That is not possible at present, but I can give a written outline of the three sessions in that day.

You may wish to walk with Jesus through them.

The Child

As children we have limited life experience and tend to view the world through the eyes of parents and teachers.

Think about those early teachings. What is still important for you? What have you let go?

Now uncover the hurts you still carry from childhood:

The teacher who didn’t understand you, the school bully, the man in the shop who served all the adults first, even though you were in front of the queue.

Some parents believe in he Biblical saying: “Spare the rod and spoil the child.”

For self-protection, the child may tell lies, a habit of self-protection that can eventually become delusion and mental illness.

What are the hurts that you still carry from childhood?

How do you feel about them now? Do they affect the way you feel about yourself and others?

In this time of reflection, you may wish to see negative memories as unwanted baggage. Talk to Jesus about them and then lay those packages at the foot of the Cross.

You don’t need to carry them. The resentment they cause adds to their weight.

If you lay them at the cross, it is likely that they will be resurrected as the thought: “I will never do this to a child.”

The Adult

Maturity brings both freedom of choice and responsibility and sometimes the two are in conflict.

Jesus shows this is at the wedding in Cana.

His mother asks him to provide wine for the guests, and Jesus answers, “My time is not yet come.”

But his mother knew he was ready.

Does this feel familiar?

How often did we have that feeling about a new situation? The Sacred Spirit in us wants to grow. The human self wants to be safe and sure.

These yes/no situations occur frequently throughout our life, and they are all about growth.

When I was a young, zealous Christian, I saw the world in black and white, evil and good.

That view has changed with experience. Now the world is a rainbow of growth, and everything seems to be either rejoicing or teaching.

In your time of reflection, try to pay attention to the tough times in your adult life. These can range from disappointments to perceived calamities.

How did they change your life?

Did you find yourself in a different place that was bigger, wiser, than before?

Let us look to Jesus again. What was resurrected was greater than that which had died.

Jesus, the Word made flesh, became the Word for the world.

When children want to know “Why did Jesus die on the cross?” my answer is, “So he could be everywhere at once.”

Jesus makes the Easter story our own story.

Nothing can be poured into a cup that is already full. We get emptied in order to be filled with something new.

When we see Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection as parable for our own lives, we think of the woman who tended his body.

Who were the people who helped me in my “crucifixions?”

How have I helped people who have been “crucified.”

I also reflect on the times I got stuck in the tomb with resentment, anger, bitterness.

In the wisdom years, I can laugh at my desire to project blame.

Sixty Plus

After sixty, the bits and pieces of experience begin to make sense. To use another metaphor, we are getting ready to graduate from God’s Life School.

Accumulated teachings now make sense. We have passed exams.

If we have ignored tests, we see how they are repeated until we learn from them.

We have a teacher who does not give up on us. We may have called this teacher different names: conscience, guide, Holy Spirit, heart knowledge, the Word made flesh or superstition.

It doesn’t matter what we name our teacher, only that we acknowledge that it is in us and it is positive.

If we are affected by a negative influence, we know we have grown beyond a caricature with horns and a tail. Negative thinking is part of our animal “me first” instinct.

That negative thinking disappears when we realise that our life has always been held in love that is beyond words.

Love has been our teacher, however, we have considered it at the time.

In the wisdom years, we grow comfortable with ourselves, which in turn makes us understanding of others.

With age there can be some physical discomfort, signs that the body is going into labour to give birth to the soul. But at the same time there is an increase in spiritual awareness.

We realise that bodily perception is quite limited.It exists in a greater realty we call God. Head knowledge may miss it, but Heart awareness and experience will reveal it.

If you are in the wisdom years you may become forgetful.

After a bit of research, I find that it is nouns that become elusive as we age. We don’t forget verbs, adjectives or other parts of speech.

It’s only names of things that disappear.


If we look at a world without nouns, we see a world that is undivided.

We are glimpsing the “wholeness.” of creation.

Maybe that is preparation for the world to come.

Some of you, like me, are losing sight, but we are given other vision we can call seeing with the eyes of the heart.

If you are in your wisdom years, how do you see with the heart?

Let is finish this reflection with some words from Psalm 139.

Where will I go from your presence?
Whee will I flee from your presence?
If I go to Heaven you are there.
If I make my bed in Hell you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the depths of the sea,
Even there your hand will find me, and your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, surely the darkness will hide me.
The darkness and the light are the same to you.

I thank you, God, for I am wonderfully made.

  • Joy Cowley is a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, writer and retreat facilitator.
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