When Does Your Calling End?
So, when does your calling end?
Here is amazing news: It doesn’t!
God’s call on our life is exactly that—a call on our life that extends for a lifetime. On the one hand, we say, “I knew that” while on the other we don’t often act like it. By saying we don’t act like it, I mean that as we approach an event called retirement, we treat it as if “old age” has pounced upon us, our contribution to God’s cause is behind us, and the preparation for death has begun.
We have some cultural confusion about this with the last 30 or so years of our lives. It seems like looking through dark glasses on a night with no moon is often the norm. Obviously, you can’t see very well and seem surprised when the timeline stretches out for years instead of days, weeks, or months.
We are surprised when key life issues such as “meaning” and “purpose” are either overlooked, ignored, or subconsciously pushed away.
There is a tendency it seems to obsess over money issues while the gentle whisper of God’s spirit in our ear is either ignored or drowned out by the cruise ship horn, the railroad whistle, the rushing of the wind in the car, or the flight attendant’s call to “buckle your seatbelt.”
Another favorite way to deny, duck, or dismiss the ongoing call to build the kingdom is the clear cultural mandate to retire and do nothing.
Our cultural misconception over the meaning and implication of retirement, old age, and the reality of longevity is huge.
Let’s face it, retirement is a real event and a point of transition from the working for pay to the active application of all you’ve learned and experienced. There is also a point of passage between the retirement and the active application and it is a time of prayer, reflection, rejuvenation, and redirection. However, this point of passage can only go on for so long until the lack of meaning and purpose leads to a life of lethargy and a broken spirit.
Just observationally, we all have examples from our circle of friends and acquaintances that we can point to where a person is active and applying their experience and accumulated wisdom to help others, lead organizations, and bring energy and new solutions to old or nagging problems that seem to hang on forever until someone actually solves them. And then, we seem surprised when we discover their chronological age. The challenging issue is that we seem to observe them and compartmentalize them as unusual or an exception.
If they are the exception, they shouldn’t be. You and I need to jump into that compartment with them and open ourselves to God’s call on this initial stage of “retirement.”
Another problem is that our churches often aid and abet this identity and activity crises by a never-ending focus on the youth while not understanding that the older generation may be the best mentors the youth could have.
And on a practical note, it is the “gray hairs” that have the greatest impact on keeping the Church budget fully subscribed!
A friend of mine attended a church start-up and growth training class. The class lasted a couple of weeks. When he returned I asked him the single most important issue he learned. His answer: “If you don’t have gray hairs among the ponytails, the church won’t make it.” A pretty down to earth and realistic assessment of the value of the intergenerational mix of believers.
Then there comes a time, as the river of life flows, when another point of passage is timely.
It’s the season when energy is a little less, time to reflect is appreciated, and you are available to speak into the issues of life and the issues of organization and ministry.
You’ve seen a lot, experienced a lot, failed a lot, succeeded often and learned from all of it. When a board is struggling with an issue, they finally turn to you for some experienced observation and sure enough, you have some. Not only that, sometimes, to your surprise, your input is not only right on, but is even an “elegant” solution, as a friend used to observe.
So moving from Active Application to Wise Counsel is a real shift. Not to say that wisdom did not previously exist—of course it did—but somehow is different with a weight lifted off of your shoulders. Sometime during this 2nd stage of retirement health issues become more insistent. The issues may be yours or your spouses but either way, they are time consuming and often frustrating. I remember talking with my mother when she was in her early 80s, and here detailing her day by sharing, “I have a hair appointment at 9 and a doctor’s appointment at 2.” I would then wait for the rest of the schedule and there was none. Interestingly enough, I had a physical a couple of weeks ago, and it took a good three hours. Always interesting when perception and reality meet.
I recently invested a couple of hours googling “old age.” After those hours of research, I sat back and thought about what I’d read. Then I could not decide whether I was encouraged or discouraged. Seems like most think the onset of “old age” starts about 80. I’m not so sure as a life expectancy into the high 90s is pretty realistic for many and I don’t think I want to be old for that long!
Next time we’ll explore that “old age” research and see what we can learn together. In the meantime, whether you are just coming out of Life 2, as Bob Buford describes it, or coming into Life 3 as I’ve taken the liberty to describe it, make sure your points of passage lead you from success to significance and from working to living.