‘How Life Passes: From Adolescence to Old Age’ But the Bible Is Always With Us
By Gary Morgan
I was hit with a touch of reality in my reading assignment for my “Innovative Approaches to Counseling” course two years ago.
Dr. Gary Collins had written well on the stages of Childhood, Adolescence, Twenties and Thirties, and Forties and Fifties. So where’s the chapter on the Sixties and Seventies, I asked myself?
As I read and pondered on the Later Years (I was about to turn 60), I really began to reflect on the last 40 plus years since I was in my teens. This reflection was magnified by the fact that through my employment I am still deeply involved in the rural area I grew up and went to school in. Every day I see people I grew up and attended school with. Most have done pretty well…moving away, attending and graduating from college, getting married, raising a family, entering a career. Many have been fortunate to retire, moving back to their hometown, enter a second career, experiencing grandparenting, dealing with the joys and storms of life.
Unfortunately there is a small number whose lives have been filled with wrong choices for most of those forty years. Crime, drugs, bad relationships causing much heartache – a few have lost their lives. They just never seemed to get things right in this life. At Christ’s return God’s purpose for them will hopefully come to fruition once their minds are opened.
Seasons of Life
The Bible seems to support the concept of different stages of life. “Childhood and youth are temporary,” said wise old Solomon adding two stages right there (Ecclesiastes 11:10). The period from 12-18 years is a time of changing. The word “adolescence” itself means a period of growth to maturity.
Growing Up Never StopsIn the 1970s, an era when pop psychology entered the mainstream, author Gail Sheehy authored “Passages,” an engaging study of life at different stages. Millions were intrigued by her theories of life stages succinctly summarized. In 1995 she updated her book. Here are her witty summations for masculine life, offered here as discussion points for reflection more than infallible laws of life:
Tryout Twenties – energy to burn, learn experiment and grow. Fail and recover. Michael J Fox in “Back to the Future.”
Turbulent Thirties – trying to settle down the Self for life’s particular path. Brando’s lament in “On the Waterfront.”
Flourishing Forties – achievement credits notch upwards while sober questions nag away deep down: Is this all there is? Tom Hanks in “The Castaway.”
Flaming Fifties – one last adrenalin surge before deeper maturity called for – career peaks even as limitations come into view, “the wall.” Lee Marvin, “Paint Your Wagon” and producer Quincy Jones knocking egos into shape to make “We are the World.”
Serene Sixties – granddad stage, many issues revolved, able to serve with more genuine motives and get above the passing fray at the business etc. Ben Cartwright in “Bonanza.”
Sage Seventies – people feel you “know something” – valuable advisor because of the track record, Clint Eastwood as baseball scout in “Trouble With the Curve.”
Uninhibited Eighties – seen enough to become impatient with phoniness, outspoken on public issues, may be harder to live with – Matthau and Lemmon in “Grumpy Old Men.”
Noble Nineties and Celebratory Centenarians – let you know when we get there!
– Neil Earle
After years of testing and observations by those in the psychology profession, it seems the majority will go through this period of life pretty well with no major problems. People in this age group do go through various changes: peer pressure, physical changes, relationships, decisions about values, worldviews, etc. Helping (or rather helping the parents help) the adolescent reminds us these are things that almost everyone else their age goes through. It’s important for counselors to help the parents realize that they are not the sole cause of the serious challengers and issues teenagers make.
The Twenties and Thirties should find you at the peak of your pursuit of the bigger and better lifestyle and way of living. This should be the time when it’s “full steam ahead.” Gail Sheehy called it the Tryout Twenties and the Turbulent Thirties when we have energy to make mistakes, try career options, fail and try again. Many begin thinking seriously about marriage, family, and careers. One way of helping those in this category would teach about cutting down on stress. Encouragement, parental involvement, finding a good mentor, parental patience and prayer, and providing spiritual support is of upmost importance.
The Forties and Fifties is a period of time of reflection, a time when you realize that life is passing you by, when you face the reality that you may have lived most of your life already. The children are now grown, probably with families of their own. Of course, many in this age range now face the reality of rearing some of their grandchildren. That along with the fact that many in this stage are dealing with things like unpaid mortgages, spouses with serious health and chronic issues, and aging parents of our own. Unfortunately the physical changes are visible, especially those who are really conscious about their appearance. For many issues like weight gain, diminishing sex drive, loss of physical strength, urinary problems, too much stress stemming from all the afore-mentioned issues can really weigh us down. With the reality of it all the reappraisal of marriage is common. Where there has been tension for years either the husband or wife, or both decide it’s time to split and search for a new partner.
The One True Counselor
As far as counselors and helpers for this age group, and approaching my 60th year of life, I see a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ as of utmost importance. Prayer and study of His word and reaching out in service to others can/should take place. In some ways the Bible is the ultimate “aging” book abounding with life case histories of people who made mistakes and others like Moses, David, St Paul and St John who continues to “bear fruit in old age” (Psalm 92:14). Of course mentors are very important for this age group, having someone to provide accountability. Maintaining one’s health is of paramount importance. Regular checkups and physicals are good to catch potential problems early. Reflection and meditation, listening to music, or taking up a new hobby, and staying out of debt are good examples of self-care that will balance decisions made in the 40’s and 50’s.
Next up is the group of the 60’s and beyond. Almost having reached that age myself and observing many people at that age personally, I see needs and concerns stay the same revolving around exercising the spiritual disciplines – meditation, service, fasting, prayer, etc. Mentoring seems to be not as welcome as before for oldsters where correction, the idea of going the wrong path is insulting and the counselee becomes defensive. Yet that just makes the point: as the Bible says, it’s our attitude toward life that will determine quality of life in the later years. For as the Book says, as we think in our heart, so we will be (Proverbs 23:7). It also says, “I have come that they can have life, and life more abundantly” (John 10:10). That is an offer to us at all stages of life. Thank the Lord for his goodness.