The Upside Of Being A "S.O.M."
Understanding how the last 30 years of life can be lived out is essential. Moving from accepting culture’s description of retirement as one, homogeneous, downhill slide to death with as much leisure jammed into the journey as possible to something new and life-giving is critical to the Christian journey. Knowing there are three stages in retirement, not just one, gives us something to look forward to rather than just celebrating our freedom from what’s behind.
Retirement 1, or time of Active Application, challenges us to move forward with God’s plan for our lives with the capacity to move forward.
Retirement 2, or the time of mentoring or embracing those God puts in front of us to as we help others to become more engaged. And then there is
Retirement 3, or a time of reflection when we will be more physically sedentary and reflective mentally.
One of the great leaders, critical thinkers, and communicators about Spiritual Formation is Richard Foster. His book initially penned over 40 years ago, Celebration of Discipline, still resonates today. The lead sentence in a recent article in Christianity today reads, “As he retires from public ministry, the Celebration of Discipline author reflects on the heart of spiritual formation. At the end of the article, he shares this observation:
I feel like I’ve done what I needed to do in terms of public ministry work. Now I will continue to do writing and so forth. And, well, I can take longer hikes. One time we were out hiking with the grandkids and they were jumping around like rabbits, and I said, “I’m not going to try to keep up with that.” They said, “It’s okay, Grandpa, you’re just a SOM,” I asked, “SOM? What is a SOM?” “Slow Old Man,” they told me. That’s fine—-I’m happy to be a SOM. The slower you go, the more you see.
I believe Billy Graham, Jimmy Carter, and Bruce Bruinsma would acknowledge that truth. The more we can see God around us, in us, and for us - the better. The more we can see and appreciate the power and applicability of his word through his Son Jesus and his spokesmen to the world. The more we can look into the human spirit and speak to its frailty and frustration with the encouragement coming from the fruit of His spirit. The more we can see that Jesus’ command to love one another creates a pathway to eternity and connections with those we do not understand. The more we can see how being open to God’s leading directs us on a forward-facing path to freedom and releases us from the bondage of our own making.
Knowing that SOP, a slow old person is in our future with all its benefits should be encouraging. Not something to fear or criticize or refer to in caricature. SOP is a position of honor if we honor the position ourselves. We often get what we expect and earn but not demand.
The slower you go, the more you see. Perhaps good advice for all ages?