In the Shakespearean play, As You Like It, there was a character who delivered a riveting and infamous dialogue addressing the origins, presence, and death of mans. This monologue has infamously been coined as The 7 Stages of Man and states that humans play many parts throughout their lives.
In Biblical narratives, we see these parts time and time again and typically, we find a trend of increasing maturity. I mean this both physically and spiritually as the Apostle Paul writes, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
But even our spiritual heroes grow old and decrepit as even the Biblical hero David needed a companion to keep him warm as he lay awaiting his death (1 Kings 1:1-2).
So what do you do in these varying stages of life? Well, eventually you learn to expect the unexpected and eventually you learn to trust the things that can be expected, which is solely, God’s faithfulness- Every time (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23
5 His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
Ah’ the wonders of a child. So pure they come into the world. You often hear messages about how even the most innocent of children are born into sin, but you hold nothing against them when they smile. Regardless of their condition, God considers them “a heritage of the [Himself]: and the fruit of the womb is His reward (Psalm 127:3-5).
They are a true gift and the Lord cares for them. Jesus provides strong caution against those who would harm a child, especially considering that one day a child will grow up into a Godly adult who bears more children (Genesis 1:28; Luke 17:2). Christ’s warning in Luke 17, speaks to the helpless nature of a babe and moreover, speaks to the adults responsibility to sustain and care for them.
For Jesus loves the little children. Therefore, so should you as you desire the things that He desires (Romans 12:1-2).
This is the first stage of man. Innocence.
And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.
The Schoolboy [Pre-teen]:
But then the babe grows, learns, and is held accountable to moral law written on his heart (Romans 2:12-16). Eventually, in this stage, the conviction of the Law written on the heart of humanity shows the adolescent that they are to be held accountable for their transgressions against God.
But at this age, they also learn that Christ provided a way to wipe their slate clean forevermore and they have a Heavenly father which loves them beyond comprehension (Romans 5:6-11)
God loves them despite their whining, pride, and failure to head warning. This is a beautiful age of discovery.
They may make the decision here to believe in the Gospel but sometimes, lessons are learned here which bring people to their knees in the next stage of life.
And then the lover,
10 Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.
The Lover [Teenager]:
The teenage years can be some of the most confusing years in a humans life. You want to be an adult, with adult responsibilities. You don’t want to be considered a kid, but you want to have fun. You having a budding sexuality that arrives with the onset of puberty, but instilled guilt for pursuing it in an ungodly manner (1 Corinthians 10:13). On top of all of these factors, their is a wild influx of hormones and influences which make you question who you are.
God gets it. But these experiences that you have purpose. As the world changes around the teenager, God offers the most stable lifeline to hold onto- Himself. Youthfulness is the root of maturity. To be mature, you first must experience what it is to be young and dumb (Ecclesiastes 11:9).
But it is those who find and believe in God young that live full lives and gain extended maturity as they flee youthful passions and gain Godly experience. The teenage years are the metaphoric boot camp years of life which prepare the person of God for soldiership (Titus 2:6). It is the years where we become experienced in love and or hate; which is a powerful force.
Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
15 Even in the cannon’s mouth.
The Soldier [Young Adult]:
Past the teenage years where you proverbially “get your feet wet” in life, the battle has merely just begun. The teenage years offers time to experience life but in a much more sheltered way, comparatively even for those who grew up harder than others. The young adult is released into the battlefield of life, where they begin to make their own way.
Traditionally, this was signified by the cleaving together of a husband and wife. But not all experience this, especially in the post-modern age we live in. But the Christian adult lives differently. A Christian adult does not get entangled in the normal life of a young adult which is mundane and purposeless. The Christian adult, a soldier of God, does not get “entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).
The soldier of God learns to be quiet, to the business’ they are called to, and take care of those who need to be taking care of (1 Thessalonians 4:9-11). Soldiers, young adults, need purpose. God gives purpose and He loves seeing soldiers live unto that purpose (1 Timothy 2:4)!
And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.
The Justice: [Middle Aged]:
As a young man, here I lose ethos. My credibility may suffer in terms of experience. But Scripture holds rich reminders for those who feel like kingdoms that they built are crumbling and that they are becoming distant from who they once were. Weight is gained, different things excite you, and hormones don’t quite energize you like they once did.
In times like these, it is important to remember that although we change, our position in Christ does not. You are justified, sanctified, and sealed unto that faithful day when our bodies are redeemed. Christ who began a good work in you will see it through and that it is ok to adapt to life and continue to grow into older age (Philippians 1:4-6).
The sixth age shifts
20 Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
25 And whistles in his sound.
The Slippered Pantaloon [Old Man]:
In the Seven Stages of Man, individuals begin to devolve into once again into a stage much like an infant all over again. The life of a man and woman is much like a parabola or a curve. It has a point of origin (infancy), it has a climax (the thrill of adulthood), and is a decline back into deficiency (end point).
Scripture indicates that “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31). The aged person can sit back, enjoy the life they have lived, and answer the question of what things were worth living for. Some people reflect and find a fulfilled life. Some reflect and ask the questions, “Why did I waste so much of my life?” Even for those who do feel this way, it is never too late to realize that your position is in Christ and that God still has purpose for you, even when you can’t take care of yourself.
When you are weak, Christ is strong (2 Corinthians 12:9). Self-worth should not be viewed through your own introspective lenses. This will leave you disappointed, particularly when you focus on what you can’t do, instead of what you can do. I am not advocating for the power of positive thinking, but I am advocating for you to seek things that are above, when life has you down (Colossians 3:1-4).
Near-Death [Once Again, a Babe]:
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
In the last moments of life, Shakespeare describes this as a “second childishness and mere oblivion.” Like an infant, life is frail here and their is a proverbial return to innocence. The mind slips, the body fails, but Christ is faithful. Sometimes their is a bedside salvation.
So be it. Praise God. Too many people discredit these occurrences. Religion and pride cloud their judgement. But regardless, at the moment the body passes this realm, the individual has a blessed hope. They have the promise of life forever, where there is no more pain or suffering and they live as coheirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
I was once asked, as a pastor, what does my funeral sermons look like? I’ll first tell you what they don’t do. I don’t lie. I don’t tickle ears. But what I do is-
Preach hope. I preach the redemption of our bodies in Heaven (Ephesians 1:7). I preach and unyielding God who promises resurrection and sent His Son to provide it (1 Thessalonians 4:14). A fitting way to end, the 7 stages of man and to begin the 1 unending stage of eternity.