Age: A New Word to Define It

 

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I wonder how you feel about age or aging. Whether I view it positively or negatively, it will still happen to all of us. As one who is farther along in the process, I can attest there are positives and negatives as well as potential positives and potential negatives. Certainly there are things we may be able to control, but many more that we cannot.

 

I think we are more aware than ever that our choices throughout our lifetime will have a big impact along with those genes of ours that more and more people are trying to learn about through DNA testing. The generation above me knew far less than that and I think they were often more likely to accept it and deal with it as a natural/normal thing over which they had little impact.

 

Most of us are getting the messages about this whether we color our hair or not, wear glasses or contacts, wear a hearing aid or turn up the volume, walk around the block or run a marathon. We get the message that God designed our bodies to move and no matter what our age, the more we move the better our bodies perform. We also get the message that what we put in our mouths has an impact not only on our waistline and hips, but also how much energy we have, how often we get sick, how well we sleep, and how alert and energized we may be.

 

When I look at all of that I am aware that I have some responsibility for what is happening to me at each decade. Sadly, many of us (too many) don’t think about that as much when we are in our twenties and thirties when we can be putting good stuff in our health bank for the future.

 

Another message we hear about what happens with age is the value of relational connections and a spiritual life that enriches us and adds to the longevity and positive aspect of aging.

 

I confess that despite being married for almost 52 years, with two married children, and six grandchildren who are no longer babies or toddlers, I definitely do not consider or feel “old”. (Yes, I do color my hair and wear contacts and am now retired.)

 

This week I discovered a new word that thoroughly delighted me while I was reading Mark Batterson’s book, In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day. Some of you may have read this book that preceded his popular book, The Circle Maker.

 

Clearly the title about a lion on a snowy day is intriguing. If you are a Bible scholar or avid reader, you may know Batterson is referring to Benaniah who became one of David’s mighty men.

 

The word I discovered in this book after reaching the conclusion that I think I am one who is a “lion chaser” is neoteny. As a lover of words, learning a new one always fascinates me. This word derives from the Greek word, neos, which means “new, fresh, or youthful”. Batterson notes that neoteny “is the retention of youthful qualities by adults”.

 

Reading a little further I became aware he was not talking about hair color, walking speed, vision or hearing acuity. He included a quote from the book, Geeks and Geezers, by Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas that I confess I have never seen nor read, but it was so enlightening that I wanted to share it with you here.

 

Neoteny is more than retaining a youthful appearance, although that is often part of it. Neoteny is the retention of those wonderful qualities we associate with youth: curiosity, playfulness, eagerness, fearlessness, warmth, energy. Unlike those defeated by time and age, our geezers have remained much like our geeks—open, willing to take risks, hungry for knowledge and experience, courageous, eager to see what the new day brings.”

 

 If you are in your twenties or thirties, that may not excite you and cause you to yawn in boredom, but if you are in the decades beyond that I am guessing you might be smiling.

 

But there is even more good news!! Batterson reminds us that neoteny is at the heart of the kingdom of God and is, in fact, what God is all about.

 

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3 NIV

 

 If we read Batterson as well as this passage in Matthew, I think we need to consider how often we are encouraged to become more and more childlike in our faith and trust in the Lord.

 

Batterson puts it this way:

 

“Conversion kick-starts two sanctification processes: Christlikeness and childlikeness. Spiritual maturity is becoming more like Christ and more like a little child.”

 

 I am not sure about you, but I want to be as filled with wonder at the Lord and all He has created and done as a child.

 

Neoteny—it’s a good word!

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