As we listen to people in our American culture who are approaching their senior years there are two often repeated lines of thinking. The first says, “I have worked hard all my life I just deserve to relax and do enjoyable things.” The second is the belief that they don’t have anything of value to contribute because they are no longer young.
When we have spent so much time being driven by “the tyranny of the urgent” urgency soon becomes a way of life. Doing things from a peaceful heart is a state of mind quite unknown to us. Too much work can become a violence to our souls and those around us as we find ourselves ruled by the task list.
It is understandable after many years of the urgent why we all want to retire to rest and fun, but God has given us gifts to use to serve others. Do we ever think that we should be doing something for the world to give back?
Over time, as we come to know our gifts more clearly, we discover we have learned how to do one or two things well. God would want us to do things wholeheartedly; and most likely, those one or two things are all God would expect of us.
We are called by God to use our gifts, “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God,” (Ephesians 4:12-13). We are called to use our differing gifts to create a unity in the work of service, to back one another up, and do it without criticism or competition.
It is from our contented and peaceful hearts that we honor one another and display God’s glory. The Gospel is not about being nice; it is all about being honest and just. Honesty and justice are not two of the world’s favorite things. We are called to use our gifts to show the world how to be honest, and do it with love and respect.
Contemplation, solitude, and silence can be the most subversive of spiritual disciplines because it undercuts the one thing that normally refuses to give way – our natural individualism and narcissism. We all move toward selfish self-centeredness that solidifies even more as we get older. The lie of our selfish hearts is that we must work to retire and then rest and have fun. We do not change our hearts by ourselves God changes us, if we expose ourselves to God at a deep level. When we expose ourselves to God in contemplation He moves our hearts to love the things He loves and do what honors Him.
If a person does not become generative and generate life for the next generation they will live life just for themselves. If they live only for self they will find themselves estranged from themselves and the rest of the world as they try to secure their last years on earth.
Did our mothers and fathers teach us that the final stages of life are only about taking care of self? We do not want to go in that direction. How could a culture with so much education, opportunity, and enlightenment produce so many people who become so petty in final years? Is it because they never heard the Gospel, much less how to internalize it?
We are in a position to lead the way and set the tone. Is your prayer practice preparing you for servant leadership, the kind Jesus taught (Luke 22:26), “… greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves,” and modeled (John 13:4) “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed our feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”