We are never too old to live for the future. But at the first pinch of loose skin, some crave a second chance at youth. We even recount the rough-and-ugly years as though we miss them. My grandmother flashed back to the 1920s with pride. "We caught a turtle and ate it for supper," she said. "That's how we got by back then."
Other grand relatives apply reminiscence like fertilizer to grow appreciation in us for everything from inalienable rights to indoor plumbing.
"Not one of them got sick," one cousin beamed about an incident three generations ago. The family dog had fallen into the well, and the family drew water from it for three days before finding him. "Although a man from the health department did have to come out to the house and give them all shots."
Rehashing memories can be fun, informative and, yes, even nauseating but when those memories eclipse the present, they can rob us of the future.
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob illustrate why we are never too old to live forward instead of backward. God pledges covenant blessings to Abraham that stretch into the future: "I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you" (Genesis 17:7). Each patriarch became more influential in his golden years than in his wonder years. So can we.
Abraham - Never Too Old to Experience Miracles
Abraham and Sarah report for diaper duty when their contemporaries are moving into retirement tents. He's 100 years old and Sarah is 90 when she gives birth to Isaac.
During Abraham's senior years, fatherhood came in waves. He sired Ishmael (his son by Sarah's servant, Hagar) 13 years before Isaac. And after the death of Sarah, Abraham slipped back into a wedding robe and married Keturah, who gave him six more sons. He became not only the father of faith, but also the father of the Hebrew nation. We do not know how many miracles are still waiting to happen in our lives.
Isaac - Never Too Old to Bless Others
The command from God about young Isaac sounds a little Canaanite crazy. He tells Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on the altar but stops him when he tries. Isaac walks away marked for a lifetime of blessings.
When he grows old and almost blind, Isaac prepares to deposit the blessing of Abraham into his twin sons, Esau and Jacob. After Esau thoughtlessly swaps his birthright for stew, Jacob scams Isaac into blessing him as the firstborn. Amazingly, character-flawed twins and mix-ups have no effect on the blessing itself. Once given, it can't be retracted. It passes to the next generation. We, too, can pass on a spiritual heritage to imperfect descendants even while God is building their character.
Jacob - Never Too Old for Restoration
Jacob reaps the trickery he sows. Esau threatens murder over the stolen blessing. Laban, Jacob's father-in-law, dupes Jacob into marrying a woman he doesn't love. Later, Jacob's jealous sons sell their brother Joseph into slavery then lie about it.
Troubles chase Jacob into old age. Yet each time, the covenant blessings change these troubles into favorable outcomes. Esau forgives Jacob. Laban's wealth becomes Jacob's. Joseph is alive in Egypt and runs the country. Jacob moves the family there and blesses his sons who become the 12 tribes of the Hebrew nation.
To this day, Israel, Jacob's redeemed name, is used to identify the people God restored to Him through Abraham. Even in the sunset of our life, we can come back to Him.
Growing older with purpose like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob comes without pining for our "lost" youth. Their past did not commandeer their potential. So when the nostalgia of formative years attracts us back in time, remember that to live fully, we must look for a future that is bigger than our past.