Gordon MacDonald spoke of this in his chapter in the book, Mastering Personal Growth. He wrote that the older he became the more he realized his condition as a barbarian loved by his Father. He said that this may be the most important insight that comes with aging. Almost all old people who are growing have certain common traits. One of them is that they know without equivocation that they are sinners. And they’ve come to appreciate the central importance of grace.
He goes on to tell about a friendship he had with a man in his seventies and eighties. His name was Lee. Lee was a godly man who brought the most unusual people to Jesus.
One day they were having breakfast, and Lee told him about a recent trip he’d taken to Boston. “As I drove toward the city,” Lee said, “I realized that I was going to be parking my car and walking through the combat zone (Boston’s notorious red-light district). So I pulled into a rest stop and had a time of prayer so I could ask God to protect me from temptation when I walked past all those pornography stores and massage parlors.”
Gordon interrupted him, “Wait a minute. Lee,” he said. “I don’t want to offend you, but you’re 78 years old. Are you telling me that you’re concerned about sexual temptation at your age and after all these years of following the Lord?”
Lee looked at Gordon with an intense look in his eyes and said “Son, just because I’m old doesn’t mean the blood doesn’t flow through my veins. The difference between we old men and you young men is this: we know we’re sinners. We’ve had plenty of experience. You kids haven’t figured that out yet.”
Gordon wrote that now, years later, he understood a bit of what the old man was saying. This is why old men and women who are growing are among the most gracious and forgiving people there are.
It’s because growth cannot happen without a powerful respect for the reality of indwelling evil and its insidious work through self-deceit. It leads us to lie to God, ourselves, and one another. He concludes, the spiritual disciplines are designed not only to lead us into the presence of the Father but to sensitize us to the lies we can find so easy to believe.