The last few years, I’ve lived in a condo building which is predominantly Seniors. There are huge advantages to this, not the least of which are the absence of children running and shouting at each other down the hallways, noisy infighting, or teens roaring through the parking lot; things you normally suffer in a rental situation. For the most part, you are dealing with grown, responsible adults who actually care about where they’re living.
The upsides are considerable. The place is generally as blissfully quiet as a mausoleum. There are any number of amicable neighbors you can trust to look after your place when you’re gone. An active social committee welcomes you to meet residents at your own pace. The grossest infringements happen when someone deposits their garbage shy of the dumpster because the door is too heavy to lift, or they mess up the recycling system in the bins a little. There’s a lot to be said for the prevailing order.
On the other hand, boil it down, and a senior’s condo bears a strong resemblance to life in a dormitory. When people spend most of their days at home, they can be way too close in each other’s pockets. Social gatherings become gossip sessions that polarize people into dissentious groups. The fuss and infighting suddenly close around you, tangling you in. Seniors can be ridiculously nit-picky about every little change made by their own elected leadership. Sometimes, collective behavior bears an uncanny resemblance to little kids on the playground. But the worst thing about living in a Senior’s condo is living under the constant shadow of ‘the Crone’.
When I say ‘the Crone’, I’m speaking about behaviors that emerge like a monster as people age. There is a graphic passage from Ecclesiastes 12:1-8 which captures with poetic, but piercing accuracy, the relentless decline that comes with time and aging. It’s too long to quote here, so have a look at it again. Let’s review the images though, for they are conveying powerful things. As we age, our driving desire and lust for life declines. The arc of pleasure diminishes. Work (productivity) decreases, and fear overtakes vital ambition in the heart. As musculature and energy decline, physical ailments manifest and increase. Sight, both physically, and prophetically into the power and promise of the future, darkens. Finally, the last breath exhales out of the body. Our mortal remains return to the dust, and the soul returns to God.
Uffta. Mighty grim, right? The physical changes are hard, but there's more to it than that. The Crone emerges. When you take a person’s natural, un-redeemed soul-power, pickle it in age and cloak it in the gloomy shadow of a familiar spirit, you get ‘the Crone’; a pessimistic, energy-sucking harridan who takes joy in darkening every atmosphere they enter. Contentious, critical, mischievous and malicious, it’s power to them to stir up trouble. They take their age and experience and throw it around as an excuse to ignore social niceties or crush the feelings of others. Don’t even try to contradict them with solid facts, admonishment or advice; they will take it as a direct challenge to the territory of their dignity. They have a thousand reasons why “you shouldn’t do it that way” or “the old days were better than this”. Either too demanding or too dependent, their children flounder helplessly to treat them in a respectful, effective, affectionate way. Have you encountered the Crone?
We’ve all seen this fiend running around to a greater or lesser degree. Sometimes, she even appears in the mirror. As I age, I’m aware of the genetic spectre that wants to engulf me. I can feel the breath of the ancestors on the back of my neck. I hear it in my dreams. There’s a long strain of supremely intelligent, lamentably cantankerous Germanic DNA in the rear-view mirror. The clan is passionate, intense, reserved, analytical, skeptical, belligerent and occasionally, outrageously beneficent. I’m not saying there isn’t some really great stuff seeded in there, but I tremble at the murky underbelly. Sinuous, sinister patterns slither through the generations, and we chose to house the Crone within ourselves, or not.
But before you get too ground up in the morose cycle of it all, don’t forget the victory! The work of Jesus has already defeated Sin, Death, Hell and the Devil. Add to these, one more: the Crone. The Crone is dead. We are now new creations, full-stop. However, we face the challenge to “put off, concerning the former conversation the old man, who is corrupt according to deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind and that you put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24
Without Scripture and faith, we simply free-fall into the dank despair of our natural default pattern. We need supernatural, Holy Spirit intervention. Simply 'being nice' is not going to get it done. Let’s get radical, because the life of Christ within us is more powerful than even our own bodies. Jesus said “See, I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5), and He wasn’t kidding. Resurrection power is at our fingertips. Fill your mind with God’s word, and your nature will be transformed.
I was blessed to have a truly exceptional grandmother who carried the life of God within her till the very end. Sally Schmidt modeled how to age without losing your tenderness, humor, curiosity and childlike faith. Much difficulty assailed her, but she bore it with a saintly patience, leaving a fabulous example for her children. I’m aiming in her direction. Grandma, if you’re watching from the balustrades of heaven…I’m coming!
All of us are going to age, but there’s huge choices to be made regarding how we traverse the process. There are distinct promises from God that our latter days will be greater than our former days (Job 42:12), but it's not going to happen without a fight. Grace and glory are being offered to you. Grasp them, for its the Crone or the Crown.