This one’s for all the baby boomers… Or anyone who can imagine a day will come when you are 50. Or better yet, those from the greatest generation who can offer perspective from experience. Is your life what you thought it would be?
For the most part, we’ve raised our children — giving them every opportunity we could, so that they could succeed and follow their dreams. It was so worth it, watching them grow and enjoy life. Now it’s our turn! We’re making plans to travel, wondering about retiring, doing some things we never had time for… Life is good, really good. But there’s a nagging thought… is this all there is? Am I missing something?
We’ve always prayed for our family. But some things aren’t quite as we thought they would be. Everyone is so busy and absorbed in their own lives. There are wonderful, exciting new relationships, new jobs, weddings and new babies. We want to be supportive, and we’re truly happy for our children — but we miss the closeness of every day life together. We worry sometimes, but can no longer fix things with magic kisses and bear hugs.
Then there’s work. Baby boomers are at the prime of careers they worked hard to achieve. Some are happy and fulfilled. Others are not. We’re questioning who and what should receive our time and attention. Yet, it’s hard to feel we have the freedom of choice. How much is enough in an uncertain world? Our adult children and aging parents created our new identity as the sandwich generation. We are pressed from all sides and often spiritually parched. We carry on in what is familiar and safe, but we aren’t always sure toward what? Similarly, stay-at-home moms become stay-at-home people, wondering at their value, when homemaker is almost a politically incorrect term.
There’s another unique category bravely beginning new careers. Whether we are re-entering the workplace after a long absence or we recently lost a job, the learning curve is steep. With waning energy we are waking early each morning to a fast-paced world. Ever-changing technology is hard to keep up with. We are LinkedIn on smart phones, leaving status updates on facebook, tweeting, tumbling and emailing. We’re not sure if what we do understand of technology and social media is good or bad — we recommit to handwritten notes and face to face friends, but struggle to find the time.
In this season of life, I also see many people finding joy in donating their time and resources to those in need. But even giving can be overwhelming. I feel a need to make a difference in an area where I feel passion. The news and the needs break my heart, and can be more than I can take in. There is so much pain and urgency, that sometimes, I just want to stick my head in the sand. I need focus and direction in this new stage, but often lack the energy to find it.
It feels like life, while good, is more stressful than ever before. I think it’s because the primary focus of my energy for each day or week is not predictable, but constantly shifting. It also feels like I’m just not living quite the way I should — at a deeper spiritual level.
God is challenging me constantly with Romans 12:2. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” That’s what I’m looking for! I want the second half of my life to really matter. To live my life God’s way in this season, I think I have to become more dependent, surrendered and open to His leading than ever before.
John 10:10 says “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Some translations call it the abundant life. I want that too! And God wants both these verses to be true for my life. I met someone living in unexpected abundance recently.
Not long ago, a brickmason arrived at our house on a Harley Davidson. He was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and a black leather vest held together by 3 silver chains. In addition to a giant cross, he displayed patches with slogans such as “bikers for Jesus” and “God loves you and I’m trying to.”
About 10 minutes into our describing what work we needed, he apologized for being spacey. He explained that he had heard just hours before that his daughter was dead. In brief, he had lived with the girl’s mother for 11 year’s and married her two years ago. His step-daughter, I’ll call her Joan, was 21 and had two daughter’s of her own, who had recently been removed from her custody. They weren’t sure if Joan had died of an accidental overdose or if it was suicide. She had struggled with depression, addictions and bad choices for years.
We gave our shocked condolences, and suggested he go home; we could talk about the wall later. He declined, saying he needed work now more than ever. He drifted to another place. With teary, distant eyes he shook his head and stated, “God is so good to me.”
He talked for 45 minutes. The night before she died, Joan had been waiting at his house to be picked up by a friend who never showed. She had a beautiful voice, and despite her deep depression, she had sung hymns as she waited. The brickmason had assured her she was blessed even now. All she needed to do when the darkness enfolded her was to look to Jesus. Somewhere in the retelling, he looked up and said again, “I don’t know why God is so good to me.” He told of dropping his totally sober daughter off where she was living, and going home in peace. Soon after her death the next morning, God gave him a vision of Joan as a little pig-tailed girl, in heaven. He said, “God is so good.” Of course, I know it’s true. But I doubt that’s where my heart would have been at that moment.
“Reality” check: 6 hours ago Joan had died. His wife was 2 hours away in the hospital with the two-year old child, who had a serious disease requiring a tube in her little body. The brickmason lived paycheck to paycheck. Just before the grandmother and toddler learned of her death, they were looking at pictures of Joan on facebook. Suddenly, the little girl looked up, pointed across the room and said, “I just saw Mommy!”
The brickmason believes that on her way to heaven, Joan was allowed one more glimpse of her daughter. He was counting God’s gifts and blessings in the midst of death and pain. He went on to say that the 5 year old would “pitch a fit” if they tried to leave church after one service — insisting on staying for both each Sunday. She knew the Lord already, and for that he was grateful.
He snapped out of it, and apologized again for drifting off. The brick mason insisted we return to discussing our driveway and wall. The shift was difficult for us, but seemed oddly natural to him. Could it be the brickmason’s perspective, seeped in gratitude and trust, is more real than the tragedy of his circumstances?
In my next post I’ll explore what God wants me to learn from the brickmason’s story. It seemed he believed in God’s goodness and felt gratitude even on the worst of days. I think he can help me understand more about the “secret” to living well in the coming years and experiencing the abundant life Jesus spoke of in John 10:10.