This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Getting old or living longer?

There is a commercial that asks, “Why do we say, getting older instead of saying living longer?”

The commercial is for pets or something, but I’ve found myself pondering that question for weeks now. Getting older or living longer …

I am 47 years old, and I remember like yesterday when I turned 40.

For some reason my physical body began to rebel on me. Everything went down, from eyesight to breathing, and my body started acting against me. I would go to the doctor every eight months to a year, thinking I had some major illness. Surely this is the big one.

But every time the doctor ran multiple tests and came back with some simple answer, poor eyesight, asthma, arthritis or low iron. And every time I grew angrier because it was something simple, though it felt like something major.

How silly! I was simply getting older.

The doctors and my family kept telling me that. Getting older, getting older …

It wasn’t until this commercial, that I wondered, How much different would I feel if I did not consider myself getting older but living longer? If I’m living longer, then I have more to do. Getting older provides an avenue for us to give up and give in to the circumstances around us, while living longer calls for a game plan for what may be coming.

My biggest concern now is this: If I’m living longer, then I’d better change the way I live my life.

If I live longer, then I want to make sure my health is good, so I can take care of myself as long as possible. If I live longer, I want to make sure my finances are in order so I’m not a burden on my children in my old age. If I live longer, then I want to have a legacy that lives on long after I am gone.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.—John 10:10b

I feel like I’ve let God down. I have not taken very good care of myself. I have not planned well financially for retirement. I have not established a good legacy for my family and community. Getting old makes these things depressing, but living longer gives me hope. With a little will power (OK, for me a lot of will power), a strong community of believers, education and the power of the Almighty God, I just may be able to turn this thing around.

Getting older or living longer. I like living longer much better.

The beauty of my spiritual walk with God is that I am ready whenever my time here on earth is over, but until such a time I’d better get busy living and not sitting around waiting to die.

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. —Ephesians 3:16-19

It doesn’t matter how old or young we are, we all have a choice today to get busy living.

Regardless of our physical, mental, financial or, most of all, spiritual conditions, we can change our course. For me, someone is going to have to help me with my addiction to sugar; it has me square in its grip. I am sure (mostly because my many doctor visits have told me as much) it is a major factor in my many ailments.

But maybe if someone can help me learn how to curb this addictive force of sugar, I can offer something to them or someone else. I am convinced that getting old we can do all by ourselves—time alone will make it happen—but living longer requires partners, friends and loved ones. Living longer is not something we do alone but in connection with all God has offered, all of creation.

Today, I start looking for a community of people who will help me live longer and more abundantly.

Cyneatha Millsaps is pastor of Community Mennonite Church in Markham, Ill. This ran originally as a Grace and Truth column in the May issue

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