24th May 2011

The Cycle Of Life

“In old age, your body no longer serves you so well.
Muscles slacken, grip weakens, joints stiffen.
The shades are pulled down on the world.
You can’t come and go at will. Things grind to a halt.
The hum of the household fades away.
You are wakened now by bird-song.
Hikes to the mountains are a thing of the past.
Even a stroll down the road has its terrors.
Your hair turns apple-blossom white,
Adorning a fragile and impotent matchstick body.
Yes, you’re well on your way to eternal rest,
While your friends make plans for your funeral.
Life, lovely while it lasts, is soon over.
Life as we know it, precious and beautiful, ends.
The body is put back in the same ground it came from.
The spirit returns to God, who first breathed it.”
Ecclesiastes 12:3-7 (The Message)

Have you, like me, agonized over the decline of a loved one, watching them grow frail and struggle with fading hearing, eyesight and memory?  Or have you anxiously watched for signs of old age in yourself,  as you approach retirement?  We dread old age and cry out to God for at least health and dignity at the end of our years.  Why does life end with weakness, illness and loss?

Why can we not end in a blaze of glory,  in our prime;  maybe just be translated like Enoch?  Genesis 5:24 tells us, “Enoch walked steadily with God.  And then one day he was simply gone:  God took him.” I can magine the outcry from mankind if this was the case:  ‘Why do we have to die NOW, just at our prime, when we have so much more to live for?’  No, this would not be the answer!

Consider every form of life on earth—it is a cycle of growth, production, reproduction, decline and death.  If it were not so, nothing would die—plants, animals or man.  The earth would soon reach capacity and would not be capable of sustaining further life.  Imagine the chaos that would ensue.  No, this would not be the answer either!

Instead we see a beautiful cycle of life.  And from this life we have opportunity to enjoy and appreciate the beauty and gifts of each stage, and to learn the lessons of caring, tolerance and patience.  Looking at the cycle of man’s life we see the innocence and charm of a baby, dependent on and learning from its parents and family; the development of a child from toddler to teenager as they grow and their individual talents and gifts emerge; the wonderful contributions to society of the adult building into the wisdom, maturity and experience that are the gifts of old age.

Like the new delicate green leaves of a tree each spring followed by the blossom, fruit and deep shade of summer, giving way to the breath-taking beauty of autumn leaves in all their blazing glory before they fall and their carpet of leaves provide food and shelter for other forms of life.  We should celebrate, appreciate and enjoy each stage or season of our lives, rather than dreading and moaning as we approach old age.

King Solomon, who had tried and seen, ‘everything under the sun’, said in Ecclesiastes 3:2 (KJV) that there is, “A time to be born, and a time to die;” and concluded in verse 12 that, “I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.”  He got quite pessimistic in 7:1 saying, “A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.”  Chapter 12 though, and the end of his book, puts it this way (verse 13), “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God, and keep his commandments:  for this is the whole duty of man.”

Thank you, Father in Heaven, creator and giver of all life, for the gifts and lessons of our short span on this earth.  Help us to celebrate life appropriately.  Help us to make our contribution and learn from each stage as we strive to become Christ-like, with the help of your Holy Spirit in us, before it returns to you and we await our change to Eternal Life.

Study by Nancy Silcox 

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