Editor’s Note: The following is an interview I did with Susan Hunt and Sharon Betters about their new book, Aging with Grace.
Christina: What prompted you to write this book?
Susan: It started with a conversation when Sharon and I realized each of us had recently spoken on aging and we both had been surprised at the interest in the topic, especially among young women. Our conversation became a conviction that we should prayerfully consider two questions: How do we think biblically about aging? How do we live covenantally as older women? These questions eventually became the format for the book. I write a chapter on Thinking Biblically about aging using Psalms 92 and 71, and then Sharon writes a chapter on Living Covenantally using women in Scripture who flourished in old age.
Christina: What do you think is/are the main challenges for Christian women as they think about aging?
Sharon: Most challenges of aging are felt by all women. The anti-aging message of culture insists we deny the losses and fight the ravages of time with expensive creams, treatments, and physical activity designed to keep us forever young. When an older woman is portrayed in movies or television, she is physically beautiful, strong, and in control. The message of advertising, entertainment, the corporate world and, sadly, sometimes the church is clear: flourishing in old age means doing more, playing more, spending more, and exhibiting youthful bodies and skin unhindered by wrinkles and gray hair. Old is out. Youth is in. As our bodies grow older and weaker, we slowly realize it is impossible to maintain this cultural expectation. As Christians, we must decide if we will embrace a scriptural or a cultural view of aging. Susan and I pray this book will be a resource to help women know that no matter how wrinkled our faces, broken our bodies, or disenfranchised we might feel, God’s Word describes aging as a time when we can flourish with the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of repentance, and the fruit of righteousness. We may not be able to do all we could once do, but we can grow in intimacy with Jesus. By His grace, we can age with grace.
Christina: When should one start thinking about and preparing for aging well? What role could older women in the church play in helping younger women in that preparation?
Susan: It seems to me preparation for aging should be a way of life in the covenant community as the elderly are challenged to pray from Psalm 71: “Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come” (v. 18). Titus 2 echoes this covenantal approach: “Older women are to teach what is good, and so train the younger women” (Titus 2:3-5). When the elderly are intentionally missional, children and teens grow up seeing the righteous flourish, even in old age. Sharon and I pray this book will be a resource to make aging a sweet topic for older and younger women to discuss together in the context of relationships where they see what it looks like to age with grace.
Christina: What would you say to an older woman who feels alone and useless in her season of life? What hope would you offer her today?
Sharon: Each chapter in the book concludes with an older woman telling her story of what flourishing means for her. These women are our friends who range in age from seventy to ninety. Their stories answer this question and give great hope to the woman who is a caregiver, the woman who has never been married, the widow, as well as a variety of other situations.
My encouragement to that woman is to first acknowledge and grieve the losses you are experiencing. Perhaps it is the loss of your spouse, estranged adult children, physical challenges that will never improve, feeling invisible and abandoned because you have lost your ability to do the things that gave you joy and connected you to others. These are valid reasons to grieve. Write them in your journal and give each one to the Lord, trusting Him with your sorrow. Then open your hands and heart to the aging promises of scripture. Turn the page of your journal and write out the promises God makes in Psalm 92:12-15:
The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord;
they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age;
they are ever full of sap and green,
to declare that the Lord is upright;
he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Let these verses frame your prayer asking the Lord to give you grace to flourish, to be fruitful, and to joyfully declare His power to the next generation.
Christina: What was it like to write a book together?
Sharon and Susan: Writing is lonely. If you share a common purpose and motivation, collaboration is inspiring and motivating. It’s not necessarily the easiest or quickest way to write a book, but the process can stretch and sweeten a friendship and give depth to the project. In the book we identify who writes each chapter, but we did not work independently. Our ideas flowed into each other’s chapters. The interdependence was thrilling as God gave us “such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus” that we became one voice in our desire to glorify God (Rom. 15:5-6). We pray this covenantal oneness will be experienced by women who study and prayerfully apply the principles in the book together.
A leader’s guide with a lesson plan and handout for each chapter, as well as other resources, is available from the PCA Committee on Discipleship Ministries: 1-800-283-1357; www.pcabookstore.com.
Go to agingwithgrace.online for Ask an Older Woman videos and much more.
About the Author:
Christina received her undergraduate degree from Covenant College and her Master’s Degree in Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She writes for a number of Christian ministries and publications including TGC, Revive Our Hearts, and Ligonier Ministries. She is the content editor for enCourage and the author of A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament , Closer Than a Sister: How Union with Christ Helps Friendships to Flourish, Idols of a Mother’s Heart, Sufficient Hope: Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Moms and A Holy Fear: Trading Lesser Fears for the Fear of the Lord. Christina serves on the advisory board at Covenant College and is on the national women’s ministry team as Regional Adviser of the Southeast. She prefers her coffee black and from a French press, enjoys antiquing, hiking, traveling, and reading. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two boys. You can find her at www.christinafox.com, @christinarfox and on Facebook.