Aging Faithfully, Alice Fryling. Colorado Springs, NavPress, 2021.
Summary: An exploration of the questions that come with the changes of growing older and the invitations of God in those changes.
It seems that the mantra among those of my age group is “growing old ain’t for sissies.” You might think that those of us who have been at this game of life for awhile might have it figured out. What some may not realize is this is a new game, and we are rank beginners at it. Our bodies are changing, we are retiring from work, and maybe other pursuits of earlier years, our relationships with family, church, and others may be changing, and even our relationship with God may be changing as we let go of old patterns and open up to new ones. There are fears: about finances, about our relationship with our children, about losses of mental and physical abilities, and what the process of dying will be like for us.
Alice Fryling has written a beautiful book that engages all of these matters, some of which may even be hard to talk about and yet they may not be far from our thoughts. She writes as one in the midst of this process, seeing changes in her life situation, her body, and even in the things she wants to do and believes are God’s invitations. She shares her own journey even as she helps us to explore the contours of ours.
She begins by acknowledging that we are on a journey into the unknown, but that like the ancient explorers, it may lead to new places we did not know were there. She discusses retirement, not only from work but also some of the former activities that came with our working lives. Successive images of blossoms blooming and fallen, sap running, fruitfulness, and the best wine and new wineskins offer hope for what is fermenting, growing anew in our lives. She explores aging as a time of new birth, shedding the lies of the false self, even good, spiritual lies that no longer have a hold on us as we embrace what Christ is forming in us.
She acknowledges the losses of past work, of body, the importance of listening to the body’s messages and not denying the losses, but bringing them to God and opening ourselves to how we might be renewed inwardly when our bodies begin failing us. She talks about how we may struggle with the loss of control that sleep represents, and observes that insomnia, an accompaniment of aging, is also a loss of control, and another opportunity to surrender to the care of God. She considers letting go and our resistance to it. She observes how letting go may be a gift, as we acknowledge the changing desires in our hearts. We give up on “shoulding” and give ourselves to the “discipline of irresponsibility” that may be the first steps to responding to the Spirit’s invitations.
She confronts our fears and where we find peace as God leads us a step at a time. She deals with feelings of uselessness, loneliness, brokenness, and the concerns of the last season of our lives. Then in the epilogue, there is a wonderful summary by the decades of the sixties, seventies, and eighties of the questions that we may ask ourselves, and the sound counsel at any age that what we need are people who listen, not to solve us, but to draw us out. Appendices offer help with relevant scripture passages, an interview with her husband Bob, and a discussion what different groups–parents and children–would have the others know.
Alice Fryling’s honesty about questions, losses, letting go, and how she has found hope and peace is helpful. If you’ve reached our age, you are asking the questions and it helps to know one isn’t alone. Reflection questions and spiritual practices concluding the chapters offer opportunities to begin to listen for the invitations of God of which she speaks. As she proposes, the coming years are undiscovered country for all of us. I long not so much to know what they hold as to be found faithful in Christ to the end. Fryling offers the encouragement that the Lord desires this for us even more than we do, and will guide us safe home.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.