318 – Aging Faithfully

This Week on Soul Talks

As we age, we can find ourselves grieving the loss of our younger selves, including physical capabilities and energy we might no longer have. But there is so much bright hope in knowing that our Sovereign Lord intended these very experiences of aging for us, and he desires to walk alongside us in them! 

In this episode of Soul Talks, Kristi sits down with Christian author and spiritual director, Alice Fryling. Together they unpack her newest book, Aging Faithfully. You’ll be emboldened and enlightened as they share their perspectives, revelations, and encouragement about what it looks like to live (and age) vulnerably and authentically with Christ.

 

Resources for this episode: 

Aging Faithfully Transcript

Kristi Gaultiere and Special Guest Alyce Fryling

Kristi

Alice, it is such an honor to have this Soul Talk with you. 

Thank you for being our guest on Soul Talks, with Bill and Kristi Gaultiere. 

Our Soul Shepherding community, I know, is going to be richly blessed by this time together—as I was richly blessed by reading your book that’s about to be released here. 

Aging Faithfully, which is published by Now Press.

It is a good read. 

And so, I’ve been looking forward to having this Soul Talk. 

Thank you.

Alice

Thank you. It’s a privilege.

Living Vulnerably and Authentically

Kristi

I love that you are serving what you’re cooking. 

You are journeying through. 

You’re living this book right now, and you’re clearly writing it out of the overflow of your learnings. 

Alice

That made this book different for me, because all the other books I’ve written were after the fact, you know?

Bob and I early on wrote a handbook for engaged couples, after we’ve been married for several years. 

And then I did a book on the enneagram after I’d been teaching workshops. 

But this one was really written as I go.

Kristi

Well, you are a wonderful blessing to the Kingdom of God. 

And I’m excited for our Soul Shepherding listeners to hear a little bit of the fruit of your life and ministry.

You’ve written, I believe, 19 books?

Alice

No, no, no. Nine books. I mean, I haven’t counted lately, but I think—that’s my recollection. 

I don’t know where the 19 came from, but that sounds good! 

Kristi

Yeah! 

Well, I’ve appreciated your writings. 

And also you are a spiritual director, which is such a key and important ministry to us here at Soul Shepherding. 

We really need people to companion us on our journeys.

Alice

We do. And I didn’t set out to write the book.

I mean, I’m always a spiritual director. 

Once a spiritual director, always a spiritual director!

But I wasn’t thinking of spiritual direction when I wrote the book. 

And then, as I got into it, I realized that people need to have a companion as they age, in every season of life. 

So for those who don’t have a spiritual director, I’m hoping the book will provide companionship. 

And for those who are spiritual directors, some are younger— I’m hoping this may launch them a little bit into how to companion an older person.

Kristi 

Well, I believe those hopes have been fulfilled based on my experience with this book and reading it. 

I so enjoyed it, and found it just so helpful to me.

I’m 56 years old. So I’m old enough to have started to experience some of the losses and the letting go that begins to come as we age. 

But I have companioned my great grandma, my grandparents, and now I’m companioning my mom through this aging journey. 

And my grandma used to say, “Aging is not for cowards.”

And now I see why she said that. 

She was right!

Alice

Yeah. 

Lots of things happen as we age. 

There are surprises, but also things we wouldn’t necessarily choose

And that’s what I wanted. 

I didn’t know when I started out writing it, what I was doing and what I was addressing. 

But I think it is a question. 

What do we do with the things that we don’t like about this? 

I mean, I figured—if I was getting older, then the season of aging must be something that God had planned for me and for most people. 

And if it was in God’s plan, then I wanted to see how it connected to my spiritual journey. 

That was a strong motivation. 

I mean, what’s going on inside of me as I get older? 

I’m so happy and delighted to discover all the invitations—and I’m a rather melancholic person. 

So nobody’s gonna call me Polly Ann! 

I’m just so deeply grateful for the wonderful things that have happened spiritually as I’ve aged. 

Very, very grateful.

The Trials of Aging

Kristi

Well, I’m so grateful too, that you have leaned into this opportunity. 

It’s really important that we don’t waste our trials in life. 

And aging is one of those trials

And I love the way that you have leaned into this, to really let the Lord use it to grow you in his likeness and his character. 

And then the way that you’re sharing that journey in your book, and the way that you’re inviting us and leading us—I mean, this is a spiritual direction book. 

You give all kinds of questions and all kinds of exercises to help us to really practice what you’re writing about here. 

And also, you’ve milked the scriptures—and you’ve come up with beautiful illustrations. 

I’d love to just kind of go through some of these in our conversation with you.

Alice

Okay. Go for it. There’s nothing I’d rather talk about right now.

Biblical Illustrations from Aging Faithfully

1. The Imagery Of The Tree

Kristi 

Great. 

Well, I really loved your imagery of the tree. 

And you shared about the pear tree outside of your window when your husband Bob was retiring, and said that the leaves were holding on a very long time—an usually a long time, and he was really relating to that with his retirement. 

And you said:

“When the leaves finally fell off the tree, the branches were bare—and Bob’s soul also felt bare.” 

We can relate to that.

Alice

I mean, Bob retired when he was over 70. 

So he had years of very wonderful ministry. 

And at the time of retirement, you don’t know what’s coming. 

I mean, you know, we have continued in ministry in our own way—but those were sad times for two or three years that Bob was grieving. 

And I didn’t like that. But I knew he needed to grieve. 

And I was surprised that, I guess, maybe those losses helped me realize that I had losses in my own life, even though I’m much more of a freelancer as far as my employment.

Kristi

I appreciated the way you contrasted your stories there. 

They weren’t exactly the same with your experience of this—but they were different and unique

And, we do have different and unique experiences, even though we’re maybe navigating a similar stage. 

And it was helpful, the way that you shared his and your story in this. 

I also love that the you’re writing about grief

And one of the things that you did — you illustrated this — is that while we need to go through those five stages of grief that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross has identified, you also showed something else. 

Your whole book, really, is about the sixth stage which her son now has researched and found… 

That in grief, we need to find meaning

And that’s what your book does. It helps us to find the spiritual meaning in the grief that comes with aging. 

Alice

To me, that makes so much sense about the God that we follow and that we love. 

Because the creator, God, must have a purpose for all of this

It’d be different with someone, you know, going through a lot of pain—and I would never try to talk them out of the pain. 

I mean, sometimes people will say, “Well, God wouldn’t let this happen if it wasn’t good for you.”

And I suppose that that is maybe theologically true, but it may not be the best thing to say to someone who’s struggling. 

Kristi

Yes. They need empathy, don’t they?

Alice 

Yeah, yeah. 

2. The Imagery Of The Wine

Kristi 

I also love the imagery that you gave about the wine, and talking about Jesus at the wedding in Cana Galilee. 

And how in that parable—in that reality—that the guest was so impressed that they’d saved the best wine for the last.

And then you say, perhaps Jesus would answer me, “I’ve saved the best for the end of the party.”

And you said, “As we age, God is performing acts to ferment us into new wine.” 

I thought that was a great analogy.

Alice

Yeah. And I feel that way. 

I mean, I am happier about this season of life than I am about any of my previous seasons of life. 

So I do feel like God saved the best wine for me. 

And the other thing about this that’s helpful is that—I mean, I don’t know very much about wine—I’m not a connoisseur, particularly—but I think fermenting takes a really long time. 

And it’s silent. It’s not necessarily observable until the end. 

So that’s an encouragement to me.

Kristi

It is an encouragement, very much. 

Your whole book was an encouragement. 

I appreciated you sharing the food of your meditation and your experience with us. 

The Importance Of Meditation

Kristi

And then, the way you invite us into personal meditation, that’s also a really key and important value at Soul Shepherding. 

We invite people to meditate on scripture and on God’s creation. 

And to listen, reflect, and to let the Holy Spirit kind of stir in us, where his invitation to us is our trial. 

And so in your personal meditation, one of them, you had the question: 

“Look out the window. If you can see a tree, spend some time noticing the way the tree reflects your experience as you age. 

If there’s not a tree, look for something else that reminds you of the aging process, and spend some time talking with God about how you feel about getting older.”

So I was reading your book on the airplane, coming back from leading our Soul Shepherding Institute in Atlanta. 

And so, there wasn’t a tree to see, but I would just imagine it in my mind’s eye. 

And to have a very meaningful meditation there, I journaled a response to that question on the beverage napkin. 

It ministered to me, very much. 

I might just share, are you interested?

Alice

Oh yeah, I’d love it. That’d be great.

Kristi 

Okay. 

Kristi’s Meditation On The Tree

Let’s see if I can read my sloppy handwriting on this beverage napkin!

It says:

“My tree has more fruit than ever. And more people are feasting on the shade of it and the fruit—enjoying it, and sitting under it, to the glory of God. 

The tree is bigger than it’s ever been, but the branches are beginning to sag. And the wood is looking old. 

There are some split branches where some have been pruned off, and deep scars where other branches have been pruned off, or where disease has afflicted. 

The roots of my tree are exposed. They’re being trampled. There isn’t as much room for them to spread. And other younger trees around me are taking more of the resources from the soil. 

The soil isn’t as friendly as it used to be. My branches are not as flexible as they used to be. 

My tree has looked better in the past, but it’s a testament to the history that I have survived harsh storms and different, difficult conditions. 

And I’m thriving as I trust the Lord—and implanted firmly in him, drawing up from his living water.”

So that was part of my journal response to that.

I’ve appreciated the opportunities you forward in the book to reflect.

Alice Fryling: 

That is wonderful.

As you’re saying that—this is sort of a leap here—but I’m thinking about one time, years ago, when I was speaking to a church board of elders. 

And I set aside some time, a half an hour, for people just to be quiet. 

And one of the women, this was all new to her, and she’s in the back. 

And she says:

“Well, what are we supposed to do for half an hour? I didn’t even bring my book.”

You used your half hour very well. Very fruitfully.

Kristi

Well, it does take practice to learn—to be able to listen and to practice solitude and silence. 

And we often need someone to guide and to teach us in that. 

Alice

That’s why I wanted to write the questions.

I thought about this woman. And I guess I think, you know, she had never done this before. 

So if she were here, this is what I would suggest she think about.

Kristi 

Good, good. 

The True Self And The False Self

Kristi

I also appreciated your writing on the true self and the false self

Because that is such an opportunity in aging, to be able to put death to the false self. 

That’s painful. That doesn’t feel good. 

So what has helped you to be able to embrace that and participate with being able to let go of the glittering false self?

Alice

Well, the false self, first of all, is false. 

It’s the person that we think that we should be, or sometimes it’s the person that we wish we were. 

But it’s not necessarily the person that God created us to be. 

And so, we often overplay our gifts. 

As you say, the glittering images. 

We all overplay our gifts. 

And then, when we get older, well, our false self grows old along with us. 

I mean, the false self is very deceitful

Jesus said, “Satan is the father of lies.”

And when he lies, he speaks his native language.

So, my native language was a good 50 or 60 years old by the time I hit this season of life.

I was well versed in that. 

So, I think as we grow older, and as our false self grows older with us, one of the realities we bump into is that we just can’t keep up this facade, this masquerade, because we no longer have the energy. 

Or we no longer have the opportunities. 

And people aren’t necessarily asking for what we wanna give.

That’s a really tricky one. 

What I notice among my friends and in my own life is that when there’s a lot of resistance to getting older, sometimes it’s related to the false self.

“You know, I’ve always been a leader.” 

“So why don’t they want me on the elder board?” 

Or, “Why is the elder board doing something so stupid? They really need my advice and they aren’t asking for it.” 

And so that just makes it so much more difficult. 

The Discipline Of Irresponsibility

Alice

So for me, it was fairly experimental. 

I thought:

“Well, I’ll just try not to be so responsible all the time.”

And in my book, I talk about how I had to learn to live with the discipline of irresponsibility, because that was part of my false self. 

It would say to me, “If there’s a need, you are responsible to meet it. And if you don’t meet it, God will be disappointed in you.”

So, I had to practice a little discipline to say:

“It’s okay to lie on the sofa.”

And I got to where I could lie on the sofa instead of going and helping. 

Like, if my daughter would ask me to come and help, and I didn’t have enough energy, I’d lie on the sofa. 

And that was like stage one. 

But what was I gonna do on the sofa? 

I was too tired to pray, and too tired to meditate. 

So, now, I read novels. 

I mean, and this is like against the rules!

Kristi

Which is why you needed to do it!

Alice

And when I do that, I drop out of this heaviness of responsibility. 

And then, when I get up, I just have more energy to do the things that I think God is really calling me to do.

Kristi

That’s so important. 

And maybe even more discernment as to what those things are.

But it strikes me that as you were practicing that discipline of irresponsibility—which I love the name of that—and, you know, sometimes the best spiritual disciplines you don’t find on a spiritual discipline’s list. 

Because the Holy Spirit invites you to practice because you love it. 

And so, your practice there was so good of actually laying down, because that’s what you were doing—you were laying down your false self. 

Alice

Yeah. That was very important. 

Kristi 

And then, choosing not to engage. 

Even though you could have made yourself work inside while you were laying down, by what you thought about.

But you distracted yourself even from work or something that you could find as productive.

Alice

Yes. 

Being Something You’re Not

Alice

And one of my issues—this is not everyone’s issue, but one of mine—is that I’ve never been a high energy person.

And now, I’m a really low energy person.

But I can do it. I can fake it. I can pull it off. 

But when I try to do that, it doesn’t come from a place of love. 

It comes from the burden of being responsible for the world, and for this particular need at this moment. 

And it doesn’t come from a place of love. 

So I actually find that I can be more loving when I practice the discipline of irresponsibility. 

So one of the things I say is that I’m so tempted to spend money that I don’t have in my emotional and energy bank. 

And I can do that. But it’s not a good thing.

The Difference Between Productivity And Fruitfulness

Kristi 

Well, yeah. It’s not gonna be fruitful.

And I love how you talked about the difference between productivity and fruitfulness in your book. 

Because there is a real difference. 

And that’s part of what you’re talking about here. 

We can maybe crank things out in a productive way, but it’s not fruitful because it’s not motivated and born out of love. 

It’s out of our false self. 

Alice

Well, it can be out of our ego. That would be the worst extreme.

But, fruit is something that is born within us

It’s not something we do. 

And I think the invitation as we age is not to try really hard to be more fruitful and less productive. I mean, that’s not gonna work.

But it’s what we focus on. 

So at the end of the day, I can focus on maybe a few things that I did.

But if I focus on the fruit of the spirit in my life, it’s a whole different perspective on the day. 

And really, it’s very life giving to focus on fruit. 

Buried In Our Losses Are Holy Invitations

Kristi

That’s so good. 

You also wrote in your book that, “Buried in our losses are holy invitations.”

And this is what you’re talking about, that you were finding these invitations to go to lay down the productivity, the dependence upon false self. 

And to learn to rest and to find that place where you actually had it within you to love. 

And where you were able to notice that, would you say, increasing fruitfulness in your life?

Alice

I think so. 

You’d have to ask my husband and my children, the people who know me. 

But for me, there’s more joy in it. 

Kristi 

That’s a fruit of the spirit.

Got ‘Invites’ Us At The Proper Time

Alice

Yes, that’s right. Yeah. And it is very invitational.

Years ago, in my midlife, I had a cancer scare and ended up with surgery. 

And at the time, I was meeting with someone who was like me—very driven, active and responsible.

I was meeting with her for spiritual direction, and I had to cancel while I was going through this medical event. 

And then the next time we got back together again, I asked her some questions and she said,

“Oh, I wish I had had surgery and could have done what you did.” 

And I understood that.

You know, there is a part of me that even now, I remember and just think, 

“Oh, I would just love to lie on the sofa today.”

And now God is inviting me to lie on the sofa. 

And I’m grateful for that. 

I wouldn’t wanna lie on the sofa all day, every day. 

But I’m grateful for that invitation.

Kristi

Well, and I think it’s a really important practice because I think of people that I know that have maybe had a stroke and been bedridden all of a sudden, unable to do anything. 

And they haven’t done any training or any preparation in their soul to find themselves in that space. 

And then, what comes out of them is not loving. 

Aging Can Be A Training

Kristi

And so I do think that this training that we do is we learn to kind of lay down, let go, and surrender the false self. 

And trust the Lord more deeply, and let him do the greater work of his spirit in us.

That it is a training. Our aging can be a training. 

Dallas Willard, who’s been a mentor of Bill and I—one of the things that he talked about is that all of our life is a training for ruling and reigning with Christ in eternity. 

And so I think aging is a part of that.

Alice

Yeah. 

And I think that what you’re saying brings up something that’s been sort of a surprise for me with the book. 

I’m surprised at the number of younger people and midlife people who are wanting to read the book in order to anticipate what’s coming. 

I mean, you can’t really grieve ahead of time. 

And you can’t prepare for some of the losses theoretically. 

But all of our life we are preparing. 

And I’m hoping, I mean, I talked with someone the other day who just had his 35th birthday.

And he said, “Is it normal for someone as young as me to wanna read your book?”

Of course I said, “That’s wonderful. It’s just that we have to realize that we are trained, and that we do practice the disciplines.”

But there’s also the piece of noticing how God works in our life. 

So there are some things that I noticed in my twenties and thirties, but I ignored—because I thought,

“Well, that’s not what I’m supposed to be thinking, feeling, or doing.”

And so, as we get older, I’m noticing the same things over and over and over again. 

I mean, I think the Holy Spirit repeats himself a lot. 

So I think, okay, I’ve heard this before

So now I’m old enough to listen—and that’s a big difference.

God Speaks To Us In Different Ways

Kristi

That’s great. 

And God is so gracious, isn’t he? 

That he doesn’t stop speaking when we haven’t heard him the first time.

Alice

And most of us hear the same. 

I mean, we have our own little sets of things. 

Thank goodness we don’t have to learn new things every season of life. 

We have our own little things, you know?

It’s like with children — we tell some of our children some things and some of our children other things, right? 

We’re not all the same.

The Holy Spirit Guides Us Uniquely

Kristi

Yeah. 

So Holy Spirit’s a wonderful personal spiritual director for each of us. For sure. 

He guides us uniquely.

Bill and I have written a book called Journey Of The Soul about the different stages of emotional and spiritual growth. 

And so our listeners are familiar with these stages. 

We call them the CHRIST stages.

And the last stage, which is “Transforming Union — the ‘T’ in the word Christ — is where we have gotten that great intimacy with the Lord through our journey with Him so deeply.

But it’s not the end of our journey.

Even though it’s the last stage, we’re still journeying. 

And often, we’ve found that the Holy Spirit brings us touching back to some of the earlier stages. 

And some of those same themes come up, because there’s still a deeper work for him to do there. 

And also, as we have traveled through these stages of spiritual and emotional growth, we’re able to then be ‘trail guides’ or spiritual directors to other pilgrims on the journey along the way. 

Because we have an understanding of the different seasons and stages and what God’s doing uniquely in those. 

And how we can cooperate with His spirit, or how we cannot — and hold on to our control and our free choice and will, and our false self.

And shut down some of those opportunities of growth.

Because we’re afraid or because we don’t want to enter into the pain and the letting go.

Alice

So it’s good to know that the Spirit continues even saying the same things. 

I mean, that’s one of the things that has really surprised me, because I grew up as a Christian and as a young Christian leader, very engaged in Bible study.

Lots of Bible study and reading books of the Bible, reading commentaries on the Bible—and now, I’m a ‘one verse a day’ person. 

I mean, a lot of times the verses that come to mind, I remember them in King James English. 

So I think, “Okay, this came from when I was in high school. And if God is still reminding me about this truth, then I do wanna listen.” 

And the word of God is just alive and active all our life long. 

And that’s encouraging to me. 

And I don’t know that every older person would do just one verse a day. 

I mean, sometimes it’s one verse a week, actually. 

Can I tell you my verse from this week?

Kristi

Please do. I’d love to hear it. 

Alice

I’m just loving it. I wrote it down. Let me see if I can catch it here. 

It’s from the parable that Jesus told. 

He said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seeds sprouts and grows, but he has no idea how it happens” (Mark 4:26-27). 

That’s a translation from The Message, which is a translation I like a lot. 

And I read that, and I thought:

“That was so important to me when I first read it as a young person, because it gave me the invitation.”

I wouldn’t have used that term at the time. The invitation was to not go out and fuss. 

I mean, I would scatter the seeds in whatever way I thought was appropriate.

And then I’d worry about them and I’d fuss. 

And I’d feel guilty if the seed didn’t sprout the way I wanted it to sprout. 

So that was important to me as a young person. 

And now as an older person, I have a problem with insomnia. 

So this parable is saying you scatter the seeds, and then you go to bed.

And I think, “Okay, that’s gonna work for me.”

And then, the seed sprouts. 

You forget about it. 

And that works for me too. 

Because that’s another thing that goes as we get older, our memories.

But then the seed sprouts, and we don’t know how it happens. 

That’s so true of this season of life for me.

There is fruit, and I don’t know how it happens—because I’m for sure I’m not doing the things that I used to do to make the fruit come. 

So that’s a great invitation for me.

Kristi

Oh, it is. And for all of us, thank you for sharing that, Alice. 

We so appreciate you sharing your meditation with us. 

I love that. 

Vulnerability is a Gift of Love

Kristi

You also mentioned in your book how it takes courage for us to admit our losses and our fears.

And how you found that actually sharing our lives and our concerns with others are an important way to really embrace them, process them, and kind of accept what God wants to give us.

Alice 

Yes. One of the words that I must have used in the book, I guess I did, but people have asked about vulnerability as we get older. 

And vulnerability is not a compliment in our culture. 

So I started looking a little bit more about, okay, so what does this word really mean

And it could be very weak and nervous about something bad happening. 

But it also means authentic, and allowing people to see our fragility. 

And that’s something that’s really important to me—to allow people to know when I’m done for the day. 

You know, it’s four o’clock in the afternoon and I am done for the day.

And that’s sort of embarrassing

Like, “You want me to go out tonight?”

But there’s a vulnerability in that for me.

Because I know that if I do, if I over extend that, then I either pay for it the next day or I do something I’m not loving in the evening or whatever it is. 

So learning to be vulnerable, or learning to let other people see that we are vulnerable, is one way to receive their encouragement and love.

Kristi

Yeah. Well, I’ve appreciated that you’ve been very vulnerable and authentic in your writing in this book. 

And it’s a great gift to us because we learn from that.

Frank Laubach said,

“We seldom do anybody much good, except that we share the deepest inner workings of our soul.”

So I appreciate that. 

Kristi

And yet it doesn’t feel good. It feels risky. We get embarrassed to do that. 

And it seems like you’ve grown in your confidence and your ability to love your neighbor as yourself. 

To actually acknowledge that you have needs and what yourself needs. 

And to be willing and courageous enough to be vulnerable and honest with that. 

To not worry about disappointing them or trying to please them.

Alice

Yeah, I’m committed to that. 

And then I’m still surprised. 

So just recently, this summer, I got hearing aids.

And that feels very vulnerable to me. 

I mean, I don’t like them and I wouldn’t have gotten them, except my husband and my granddaughter said I needed them. 

So I got hearing aids, and I thought, “Okay, so now I’m really old.”

And I didn’t want people to know, so thank goodness I have hair. You can’t see it. 

If I were a man, it might be harder to be vulnerable. 

But, most people who know I got hearing aids say, “Oh, I wish my mother would,” or, “I wish my grandfather would,” or something like that. 

But it’s very visceral.

I didn’t like that. And I thought, “I just wrote this book. What’s wrong with me that I can’t accept this piece of getting older?”

Kristi

Well, it seems like, often, we think we’ve accepted it all. And then there’s a new opportunity.

And so, you’ve had a new lost degree there. 

And a new trial to that you’re leaning into, but of course your flesh is gonna raise up there and protest. 

Alice

My false self is yelling at me.

Kristi 

Right. Yeah. 

And yet I can recognize what a loving act this was for those in your life. 

And even for our listeners today, you can hear me better even. 

That’s a great, great gift of love.

Wholeness Does Not Mean Perfection

Kristi

One of my favorite quotes in your book, you said, 

“Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness is an integral part of life. The sooner we understand this, the better. It’s a truth that can set us free to live well, love well, and then die well.”

And that’s what you’re talking about. That vulnerability.

Alice

Perfection. I think the root meaning of that word is complete, which is, I mean, that’s a beautiful description of the season of aging. 

So, our lives become complete, not perfect—and everybody’s completion is different, you know? 

We’re all fulfilling what God’s creative purpose was for us.

Kristi 

Yeah. That gives us peace as well, as we know that. 

And 2 Peter, 1:11, “The kingdom gates open wide to you as God choreographed your triumphant entry into that eternal kingdom of our Lord and savior, Jesus.” 

That’s what you were just talking about, is that individual way that the Lord leads first.

Jesus Didn’t Hesitate To Discuss His Own Death

Kristi

One of the other things that you wrote in here that was a great point—you talked about how Jesus didn’t hesitate to talk about his own death. 

And yet, in our culture, we do,

Alice

I know.

We’ll talk about sin and sex and all kinds of things before we’ll talk about death. 

And that is one thing I have wondered. 

And people have asked as they’ve read the book, how they can be a companion to someone who is older, whether death is imminent or not.

And I think we can gently invite them to talk about death, if they want to

I mean, if they don’t want to, then drop it like a hot potato.

I mean, that’s what we do as spiritual directors. 

We bring up something that might be discussable.

But if it’s not, then we let it go until they’re ready. 

But I do think being able to talk about death and what our desires are in our last days, what we’re afraid of—it helps us carry those fears better.

Kristi

Very much.

I know it helps me just in grieving the losses I’ve already started to experience as I’m letting go of some of the youth that I have enjoyed. 

It helps me to talk about it as I grieve that. 

To be able to process that with somebody who can listen to me with empathy, who can validate my emotion and can, you know, just be present with me and mirror God’s presence to me in that.

One of the things for me that I’m mourning is that I can no longer run. 

And that’s a loss to me. I miss that. I’m sad about that. 

And I see people running, and my husband is a marathon runner—and he can still run. 

And I struggle with envying him sometimes, and his ability to continue to run. 

And so now I have little grandchildren that need me to run after them. 

It’s a mourning, it’s a grief, it’s a letting go. It’s a loss. 

And I find talking about it and grieving it is an important part of me being able to let go and get to that place of peace, contentment, and gratitude that I could still walk.

We Can Laugh About Our Aging

Alice

Right. And sometimes when we talk about it, we can laugh about it too. 

I mean, I mentioned in the book going to the local gym, after I figured out how to work the machines—I’m in there in the gym, on the bike, biking. 

And there was a young woman ahead of me on the treadmill. 

You know, she was thin, good looking, cute. And she was probably 50 years younger than me. 

And, you know, I just biked away and I thought, “Who does she think she is, being so cute?” 

And, “Why can’t I look like that?”

And I thought, “50 years older.”

I mean, I had to have been 50 years older. 

And I thought:

“What’s wrong with this? Why?” 

And I could laugh at myself.

We don’t laugh at all of our grief. 

But really, you’re a lovely person, whether you run or not, and you may be sad that you can’t—but you’re still in essence all that God made you to be. 

There’s something humorous about our rejecting that, or resisting it.

Kristi

Yes, there is. 

I appreciate you bringing that out, and it does help us to have a sense of humor in the midst of loss and grief and aging. 

Definitely. 

You Can’t Pray Away The Losses Of Aging

Kristi

One of the things you also wrote that I so appreciate just you naming this, and I’m just gonna read this from page 118. 

“There are so many things we do not know as we age. We do not know when we will die. We do not know why God allowed us to lose so much that is important to us. We do not know if we can live out a life that has been given to us. Some days, all we know is that God is God. God created us. God loves us. The Lord Almighty is with us. We accept peace when we are still and silent enough to remember that.”

Alice

That is connecting with one of my verses in recent days. 

Just in terms of prayer, well, you can’t pray away the losses of aging, for sure. 

And there’s so many other things we pray about where we don’t sense that there’s an answer to prayer. 

And I find as I get older, I’m less and less inclined to give God a lot of suggestions about how he could handle this problem. 

And I was feeling stress about unanswered prayer recently. 

And I thought about Ezekiel, when he was in his vision at the valley of dead bones, and God said to him:

“Oh, son of man, can these bones rise up again?” (Ezekial 37:1-3)

And Ezekiel’s answer was,

“Oh Lord, You know.”

And I thought, that’s my prayer in this situation, that I was praying about that day. 

And as I think about, “Where am I gonna be next year as an old person a year from now?” 

You know.

What if I have a disease or, you know, something bad happens?

And that’s my prayer. 

“Oh Lord, You know.”

Kristi

So good. 

Such a great prayer as the ancients call of abandonment—abandonment to God’s divine providence. 

And abandonment to God is what Dallas Willard wrote about, and it’s been such an important practice in learning, because we want to be in control.

Alice

Well, we think if we know we’ll be in control, right? It’s quite the opposite.

Kristi

Yeah. It’s so beautiful. 

Well, Alice, I have so enjoyed this opportunity just to have this full talk with you today. 

I so appreciate you leaving these footsteps of faith for us, and your legacy and writing and sharing from your heart.

And your experience all these years, companioning people and spiritual direction. 

 

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