I had a minor hair crisis last week. When I tried to schedule a hair appointment, my stylist didn’t have any openings for over two weeks. By then the gray stripe already forming down my part would be a roadway. No problem, I figured, I’ll just dye it myself. I picked up the ads to look for sales on hair color – none! (It’s against my principles to pay full price for anything!)
“So, just let it go,” my husband said.
“Really? You don’t care if my hair is gray?” Problem solved. I knew that eventually I would stop dying my hair, just thought it would be later rather than sooner. I thought about dying my hair gray rather than live through that awkward stage where my hair will be two-toned, but I think that would be too drastic for me. I’d rather allow the change to happen gradually over a period of time, but don’t hold me to this—I might change my mind.
Of course, every change necessitates other changes. I’ll need a new hair style to reflect my new color, and I’ll probably need a new head shot, but those are problems for another day. One crisis at a time. The reality is that I’m getting older and part of aging is gray hair. Consider the alternative—I either grow older or I go home to my God. Hence the title, go gray or go home.
The writer of Psalm 71 is an old man. His hair is gray, “So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me.” (18a) He has known trials throughout his life but God has been present, “For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth, you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.” (5-6) “You who made me see many sore troubles will revive me again.” (20a)
His enemies have surrounded him for one final attack now that he is old and frail. “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; forsake me not when my strength is spent. For my enemies speak concerning me, those who watch for my life consult together, and say, ‘God has forsaken him; pursue and seize him, for there is none to deliver him.’” (9-11) They interpret his age and weakening health as a sign of God’s disfavor.
The writer remains steadfast in his belief in God, his rock, “Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.”(3) He ends with a hymn of praise, “I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God. I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.” (22)
It’s interesting that the writer’s enemies would say that God has forsaken him as he aged. A long life was considered a sign of blessing by God. But even back then, the elderly weren’t always respected.
Growing older is not for the faint of heart, the residents of the retirement community I used to serve told me on numerous occasions. It’s not easy to deal with the multiple losses that are part of the aging process. It takes courage to face the inevitable with grace rather than feeling sorry and complaining. As I face the inevitable there are examples around me of how to manage the later years in life with dignity and grace, including the writer of this psalm. Amidst all of his problems he continues to sing songs of praise to our God.
So bring on the gray hair, may it be my silver crown of glory! I earned every one of them.