Charlene Epp lives in Lakewood, Colorado. She attends Glennon Heights Mennonite Church and serves as a chaplain, a spiritual director and a coach for families facing living transitions of disabled or elderly individuals. Charlene is a member of the Mennonite Spiritual Directors Network.
Aging doesn’t ensure or guarantee becoming a sage. However, those who nurture their souls through the seasons of life, exercising self-reflection while stretching their spirits towards growth, may find deeper knowing and understanding of their life in relationship to God and all creation.
This attention and intention of inner work enriches their life regardless of ability or age. It calls forth wisdom like the words found in Proverbs: “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding…”
During spiritual direction sessions, those who have lived decades often talk about their deep involvement in the church and living out their understanding of faith within community. As years of living mount, individual’s questions can take on a quality of humility as they review their living and being. Such a review is inevitably part of seeking to continue to live faithfully and with integrity. As the hairs on their heads change, often there is a change in perception. With the wisdom of hindsight, their understanding of the past can become multi-faceted. Now they may perceive that sometimes they did not act rightly, even though at the time it had seemed so; they may also experience a distilling clarity of beliefs and values that remain important to live out.
In their advancing years, many elders discover the value of paradox. Now they know there are multiple ways of holding and living faith that is relevant and current. With that insight can come the recognition that what was faithful integrity in the past may no longer be the path of faithfulness.
These individuals remain faith-filled in spite of and because of the changes they have experienced in the church and society. Often our conversations are around how to live out their commitment to faith in community. There is a recognition of no longer being, or wanting to be, in the center of activity. Yet there is desire to remain a vibrant participant in life. Clearly each of these individuals is living in the midst of and into a significant spiritual life transition.
Phyllis Trible is one of many who have spoken and written about the significant spiritual shift taking place in the church and our world. As individuals and as a global community, we are living in the gap of a spiritual shift while living authentic life of faith. What an opportune gift to be alive and living into this shift with eyes wide open to such a reality, and with the companionship of those who gain understanding through self-reflection and reaching toward growth. It is such an honor to companion with and learn from those who are becoming sages in such a way, regardless of age.