A few years ago I had to step back from active work because for one, the Lord impressed upon me to be at rest and to sit at His feet; two, my youngest reached school finals and I needed to be at home; and three, I found myself getting exhausted easily and realized I was worn out by multitasking, balancing home, work and ministry. Knowing I might become sick , I gave in my notice and stepped back into the home, even though I hadn’t yet reached superannuation.
There is a general opinion that it is a good thing to be able to retire early, but let me tell you, it wasn’t easy to to do so, even though I knew I needed it. I had been running at such speed and working so hard that it took me a year to decelerate, unwind, slow down, quieten, pull back and come to rest. I felt guilty for not working and would often get triggered to do something, again and again. Thankfully I had a few faithful people who held me to my post and saw to it that did the Lord’s bidding, to rest.
Over a period of time I learnt to rest, accept it as God’s gift, relish it and even begin to enjoy the season. I relaxed totally, eating and sleeping well, letting my body get its make over and rejuvenation, using the time to catch up on my reading, deal with submerged hurts, gain emotional freedom and renew my spiritual insight.
I began to grasp that I was being recharged and refurbished for a new season of life. At a time when people of my age were getting ready to wind down, slow down, take it easy, I found myself ready and restored for a new lease of life. I began planning and doing a host of things, setting in motion what I would like to accomplish this phase of my life, before my call home, whenever that is. As I began to evaluate what would be the things my strength and energy would allow me to do, choose wisely what I can do and sustain for next 20 years, I noted something.
Even though we are the people of God and call ourselves His disciples who follow Him and live by the precepts of His Word, we have inadvertently adopted the world’s job profile of working till the 60s and then relaxing in what we call our retirement period. We have calibrated ourselves to the mode of such working till 60 and then doing nothing concrete after that age. We have programmed ourselves to concentrate on building up a portfolio of life, health, finances, family, travel etc to live a comfortable ‘retired life’ after working very hard. We have made and set our horizon which we strive to reach and then after attaining it, wander around lost in a mist of uncertainty, not knowing what to do and end up wasting our days.
The years beyond 60 are considered old age when, because we have decided it is time to sit back and lead a sedentary life, we become a burden to ourselves and our families. We seem to lose sight of life itself and view it as a burden, dragging ourselves along till our death. We fear the age beyond 60 and think either too little of it or too much of it. We are so terrified of it that we run ourselves ragged trying to provide for those years. We have set a false target, much before the time allotted, and therefore, end up becoming inflexible and insipid.
In sticking to such a schedule, we have committed the major mistake of trying to run a race that was meant to last 80 years in less time. We try to complete by 60 what was meant to be stretched over a lifetime of 80 years. The result of such an attitude and the aspiration to achieve in our 60s what we can get only at 80, is sad weariness and shortened life span. We end up with health issues such as diabetes, arthritis, partial blindness, hypertension, loss of hearing, and what not. The burden of trying to accomplish in a short time what must be stretched over a long period is so taxing that we tend to miss out on life and its nuances. In our pursuit of an unrealistic focus, we miss out on the process of life itself as well as it’s myriad designs.
When we reach the season that we have bracketed as time to sit back and enjoy, we feel cheated or depressed if we don’t attain our set goal. In our hurry to finish and wait for retirement to rest, we miss out or trample over the small things of daily life. When the time comes to enjoy as planned, we may be too sick to relish what we have worked for. We may end up losing all of life, not just our health, and maybe even relationships and people, because we have been too focused on the endgame rather than relishing every day. We are supposed to sustain our stamina and strength until the end, but lose it out in a bid to finish early. When we reach our end season, we may find ourselves not only alone and lonely, but geriatric and bereaving.
God has neither planned nor envisioned for us such morbid disillusionment and abandonment as our end time. His plan is for us to be well-formed and well-informed individuals, enjoying abundant and best of life just before our departure from earth or when we meet Him. The key to such a life is to realize and recognize that He has ordained and designed for us a rhythm of living, a perfect timeline, a mode of operation that will help us appropriate the abundant life He has promised and kept in store for us.
According to Moses, the architect of Israel’s freedom and nationhood, 70 or 80 years have been ordained for us to live, according to our strength. If this is the length of our days, then we need to conserve our energy until then and not exhaust it 20 years before the appointed time. We need to consider living well until the end of our days, until the last ounce of our strength has gone and we step into the grave. We need to pace and space ourselves so that we can live life to the fullest and accomplish what we have until that day of our death or the day Jesus returns. For He has appointed for us seasons and according our days so shall be your strength (Deut 33:28).
Caleb, the spy who along with Joshua refused to fear the giants in the land, possessed a different spirit. He urged the others to press forward into the land and conquer it because of God. Unfortunately, his fellow spies who brought a contrary reportcaused a setback and he ended up having to wander in the desert for 40 years along with the community. He had to see a delay in his dreams and the promises he had received, not because of his mistake but that of others. Yet when he finally enters the promised land, he still has the same drive and zeal to inherit what he had taken for his own, keeping intact the spirit of enterprising faith. We see him asking, no demanding, of Joshua that he be given the hill country of Hebron where there are giants. Forty years have passed but Caleb declares that he still has the same strength as he had that day and same fervor to possess his inheritance (Josh 14:10-12).
That the years beyond sixty are meant to the best and most fruitful time of life may be moot point, but we have never given thought to it nor realized it nor been taught as such. What is to be the most blessed and best season of our life in which we would be at full self-actualization, we have bracketed as worst time. By then we have gone through life, survived it, learnt from what it throws across our way, been totally immersed in it, saturated with its experiences, have distilled its essence and developed rich content. We are in the right place and position, with time to spare, to be able to train others, offer advice and possess the right language to communicate in the best way possible to those who are behind us in age, because of the passage of our years.
People give very high value to old wine and vintage wine that has been preserved for years is highly priced, with older the wine greater its worth. How is it then human life which by default has greatest value, is suddenly devalued and sidelined with the increase of years? When antiques, things that have existed for years, are estimated highly, why is it that people are counted less valuable with the passage of time? Why is it that highest form of life, humans are rejected as useless and not relevant? It is because we haven’t realized and accepted that old age is the best and most noteworthy season of all times!
Life is not a sprint but a marathon and so strength as well as stamina is needed if we are to complete all our lifework.
We need to sustain our energy and be fruitful till the last, and not end our life in weakness and defeat.
If we are to peak in the last season of our lives, we need to do something very important: We must not set our horizons of returns and rewards at the 60s but at 70s and 80s. We need to continue to influence, impact and even innovate beyond the age of 60.
Reassess your goals and priorities which may have revolved around your kids, but don’t give up as being useless or clueless.
We surely do need to take a breather at 60 and a time to realign to a new way of life because of diminishing physical strength, but let’s not write ourselves off.
Reach back to your dreams which you may have laid down because of your duties and restore them to the forefront of your consciousness and mind.
Renew your hold on life, reinforce your zest for living and restore yourself to live again, afresh all the years that Heaven has blessed you with beyond 60!
The age of 60 maybe the end for your job, but 80 or the end of your days is for your lifework!
To be fruitful and productive you need a lifetime, not just 60 years!
Don’t look for returns and rewards in your 60s and don’t plan for 60s. Plan and live for all the years God gives you life!
Have a new life, make a new beginning, learn a new skill, fulfil your dreams, pick up a hobby, do something you have never done before!
Be a Caleb with another spirit and conquer in ‘old’ age!