2011 is nearly over. We are about to celebrate the first day of 2012. People will stay up late, throw parties, eat junk, and make New Year’s resolutions. While I’m not fond of the “I promise to be good” flavor donned sometimes by New Year’s resolutions, I do like the reminder to contemplate my own life a little bit.  It also seems a perfect time to ask a question, “What or who do you want to be when you’re old?”

I probably got asked that in junior high or high school at some youth event. I know the “what would you want your epitaph to be?” one did get asked. The question and its answer could be trite, slathered with all the “right” answers, but I do think it’s an important question to ponder, because you are going to be somebody or something to others. That’s guaranteed. You’ll have made choices and lived with the consequences. You’ll have a reputation, a history. All of that will help to determine who or what you are when you are old. “What or who do you want to be when you’re old?”

This isn’t something we suddenly get to decide when we finally reach that invisible point of old age. We make decisions as younger people that play an important role in people we become when we are old. Those decisions we make today about health, finances, relationships, character, and so on affect the health, finances, relationships, character, and so on in your future. How do you live your life now? That’s going to make a difference tomorrow. It’s going to make a difference in what or who you’ll be when you’re old. If there’s a strong family history of heart disease, eating five eggs a day may not be your best bet. Saving money today instead of spending all you have and then some means that later in life, you’ll probably have some put back, and you might have even made money on it! If you marry somebody who treats you wonderfully, your old age will probably look a little different than if you marry and divorce a few times. If you’re telling lies today, it’s probably a little much to expect people to believe you’re telling the truth tomorrow. See how this goes? “What or who do you want to be when you’re old?”

Don’t kid yourself, either, that tomorrow never comes. Technically, tomorrow never does come for us, but the future held by tomorrow does eventually become our today. I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that tomorrow becomes today quicker and quicker. I suspect that trend will continue, and that one day I’ll wake up all of the sudden and realize that I’ve achieved old age. Will I be the person I wanted to be? I hope so. The time to start that process is now.

Happy New Year’s!

P.S. I think Ecclesiastes does a fine job of discussing the brevity and purpose of life, so I’m including a few verses from the end. Enjoy!

Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:7

New International Version (NIV)

Remember Your Creator While Young

7 Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8 However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
9 You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigor are meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 12

1 Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.