Although it’s young people that are specifically commanded to remember their Creator (Eccl. 12:1), it’s probably assumed that middle-aged people will have the sense to do the same. Surely by then we have accumulated enough experience to realize that remembering we have a Creator and that we are creatures is basic wisdom. How then do we respect and remember our Creator in busy, striving, stressed-out middle age?
1. Remember that we are complex creatures
The body is a complex mix of physical material and physical forces – electricity, chemistry, physics, biology, plumbing, gasses, pumps, siphons, lubrication, buttons, switches, receptors, etc.
Then there’s the soul, way more complex than the body and completely inaccessible to empirical research methods. Although we have some Biblical data to mine and research, yielding us some basics about the soul’s capacities and abilities, so much about the soul remains a mystery.
And then you put complex body and complex soul together and what do you get – multiple complexities!
The interconnectivity of human nature means that the health of the body affects the health of the soul and vice versa, and it’s not easy to figure out the contribution of each to our problems! One thing is for sure, we cannot neglect one realm and expect the other not to suffer the consequences.
2. Remember that we are limited creatures
Hopefully none of us think that we are unlimited. However most of us think we are less limited than we actually are. We vastly over-estimate our physical strength, emotional stamina, moral courage, spiritual maturity, volitional muscle, and conscience steel.
Underestimating our limitations and over-estimating our abilities can only have one outcome – weakness, fraying, and eventually breaking. Try it with anything – your car engine, a towrope, your computer, etc. Underestimate the limitations and over-estimate the abilities and you will eventually blow the engine, break the rope, and crash the computer.
We must find out our limits – physical, spiritual, emotional, moral – and work within them. And we must not impose our limits on others, despising those with lower limits or envying those with higher limits.
3. Remember that we are dependent creatures
Even before the fall, Adam and Eve were dependent upon their Creator. They leaned upon him for everything. That was their most basic human experience, and in a fallen world it’s even more necessary.
Many of us are theologically dependent but experientially independent. We depend on God with our lips but not with our lives. We say we lean upon Him for everything but He rarely feels our weight. If we don’t live as dependent creatures, we are not worshipping our Creator. By our independence, we are worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.
4. Remember that we are fallen creatures
As part of the curse upon us for our first parent’s first sin, death entered the creation and even the greatest creature – humanity.
If you thought we were complex before, we are even more complex now. I enjoy fishing, and like all anglers, I “know” that the most complicated and sophisticated reels catch more fish. But, when they break down they make a much bigger mess than standard reels.
That’s why complex humanity is in a much worse state than any other creature. That’s why nature films focus on animals rather than humanity. Who wants to look at ugly human creatures in all their brokenness when you can see much more beauty in the animal kingdom!
But that’s not the end of the story. Remember, middle-agers, our Creator is in the business of re-creating. In salvation, He begins the process of making all things new, including His creatures. In fact, the Creator lived as a creature in the midst of His creation to save His creatures.
David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary.