“AGING MATTERS” - Book Review
– Finding Your Calling for the Rest of your Life”
Author: R. Paul Stevens.
How are we to think of old age or the senior years of our lives? More importantly, how are we to
live out these years? And how are we to live with faith? Does aging increase our spirituality? Or soul
search? Are there special vices and virtues in aging and spiritual disciplines to enable us to grow spiritually
in our most senior years? In his book Aging Matters, R. Paul Stevens the author, comments that “People
fear aging partly because they fear death. The logic is circular. It is mostly old people who die. So we
fear getting old because we will die. So aging is a paradox. Everyone wants to live longer, but none of
us wants to get old.” What’s your reaction to Steven’s observation?
These and other questions are taken up in this informative and thought-provoking book. The author approaches these questions from a perspective of a Christian faith drawing on the Scriptures but he writes in a way that could be accessed by people who are not Christians. Aging Matters is written in three parts: Calling, Spirituality, and Legacy. Part One deals with our attitude toward work and retirement. The author introduces two simple ideas which he reiterates a few times in his book: (1) God calls people in all walks of life (not just the clergy) to work that uses their gifts for the good of others; and (2) work need not come with a paycheck in order to be “work.”
“I have a serious proposal to make. We should work until we die.” So begins Part One of Aging Matters. This thesis may startle or even anger folks who are looking forward to retirement or those who are enjoying newly gained leisure to travel or play more or just run after grandchildren. But it may comfort others who fear retirement as a loss of self, those who are asking, “When I reach the retirement age and am no longer a [manager/pastor/lawyer/corporate officer — fill in the blank] who will I be?” Their only question is “How can I keep working?” Steven’s thesis is that we are created by God to work and, in fact, will probably continue to work in the afterlife. By the way, what is your take on “work in the afterlife? He defines work as “energy expended purposefully – whether it be manual, mental, or both, and regardless of whether it is or not remunerated. When we play, we may be expending energy, but it is not purposeful.” Stevens affirms that wherever we find ourselves on the age clock, God calls us to use our gifts for the good of the world. This call continues throughout our lives, though it may take different shapes to fit changing circumstances.
In the section on Spirituality he considers whether the aging process itself is a spiritual discipline, a spiritual journey. Find out what vices and virtues are uniquely associated with aging. With a light and sometimes humorous touch Stevens addresses aging as a spiritual journey and the vices and virtues of aging. He discusses how the pain of progressive losses can deepen us. Loss comes bearing gifts. One reviewer of this book aptly summarizes these gifts as:
Intensification toward a contemplative life
Simplification with its concurrent freedom
Learning to live in the present moment (which he calls “heavenly mindedness”).
The blurred line between sacred and secular
Seeing time as a precious resource.
In the third Part, learn about leaving a multifaceted legacy and how to prepare for death and what there is on the other side. In a subsection called “Death of the Whole Person,” Stevens writes, “More than our bodies die: emotions, personality, capacity for relationships, capacity for giving and receiving love.”
The take-aways from this book include: 1. The reader will see advancing years in quite a different perspective. He will see aging as a process of maturing that is laden with new opportunities. 2. There is hope as faith enables us to see an ultimate future which is even better than the past. 3. Receive guidance to discover our calling. 4. Envisage Spiritual and Personal Growth – realize that the very process of aging is a spiritual journey of become the whole person, more connected with God, with others and with the created order.
You may want to consider adding a copy of “Aging Matters” to your library of books for reference in the future or by others after you have read it for yourself. But the book has another possibility. Each chapter ends with stimulating questions for group discussion.
About the Author:
R. PAUL STEVENS
Professor Emeritus, Marketplace Theology and Leadership
BA, BD, DD (McMaster University),
Paul Stevens joined the Regent faculty in 1987 as Associate Professor of Applied Theology. During his tenure at Regent, Dr. Stevens taught courses on Marketplace Theology, equipping and empowering the people of God, and ministry and spirituality. In addition, he served the College as Academic Dean. Dr. Stevens’s primary focus in teaching and writing is equipping the whole people of God for leadership. He has taught and spoken at institutions all over the world, including Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, the Christian Studies Institute in Brazil, Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Biblical Graduate School of Theology in Singapore, and in Kenya for the Certificate in Ministry offered by Carey Theological College. Dr. Stevens was named Professor Emeritus of Marketplace Theology and Leadership in 2005 and continues to teach courses frequently at Regent.