How to Reframe your Golden Years for Kingdom Service: Part 1
When the world says stop, it’s time for your greatest impact.
The suggestion that there are “golden years” presumes a lot. Where did the term come from?
The term “Golden Years” was coined In 1959 as an advertising pitch for one of the early adult communities, Sun City, Arizona. Del Webb realized that if he helped describe the American Dream of “not working” and living a life marked by fun, leisure, and happiness along with the absence of stress, people would flock to his housing development. He was right. On the first day Sun City opened, 100,000 people showed up. He’d tapped a golden vein that continues to this day. If anything, the promise of leisure, with and as meaning, became the visualization of retirement for most Americans. When you hear the phrase “golden years,” there's no mistaking the topic. You're talking about retirement. A time promoted as one of relaxation and leisure.
Reframing our cultural view of retirement is a big task. The picture of retirement as one homogeneous time frame marked by a downhill slide both physically and mentally with the goal to jam as much leisure into the time available as possible, has totally captured our thinking and our view of the world after the age of 65.
When you dig into the issue, it’s not a pretty picture and certainly not one that reflects God’s plan for our lives. It actually portrays the exact opposite, creating a void of meaning and little Kingdom service.
Let’s dig into the reality of this period and come to grips with the reality and the opportunity available to Jesus followers and those willing to be listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, too many Christians give lip service to God’s calling, but reflect ears not hearing, and eyes not seeing.
Here are some important facts helping to frame the issue and inform the reframing needed to be done: let’s call this a Reframation.
1. We acknowledge the reality of longevity in our time. What our culture calls retirement may very well last 30 years. Approximately one-third of our lives is in front of us after we turn 65. That’s the same length of time between age 20 and 50. Think back over any thirty-year period in your life and be reminded of all the changes that took place. It’s reasonable then to assume that the same amount of change will take place during the thirty years of retirement. It is not one homogeneous time period but one filled with challenge, often pain, and an opportunity to impact the kingdom. The question is will we?
2. We acknowledge that God has a plan for our lives. My bible reads that God’s plan began in the eternity that existed before time began. That plan and the preparation needed to be carried out has been shaped by our DNA, our choices and response to challenges resulting in our lessons of life. It is wisdom that comes out of those lessons reflecting God’s principles and then His direction.
Reframing the way we think about these last 30 years, is the heart of the Reframation message. In order to reframe, it is good to unwrap and get ready to repackage our current view of life and the culture we live in.
It is surprising, yet true, that the majority of Christians, roughly 85%, when asked what their retirement will look like respond with some version of “nothing”. Often it is framed as a longing for leisure activity or checking off another item on the bucket list. There is clarity about our desire to be free however, there is little clarity about what “freedom to” looks like. As parents we prepared for the arrival of our children. The nine months prior to the arrival of a new life is talked about, read about, and physical preparation prioritized whether the colors were pink or blue.
Our high school years are marked by the reality that college or vocational training are ahead. The question is omni-present, what are you going to do? The clear presumption is that if you are not prepared you will not be able to care for yourself or the potential family ahead.
As Christians we are all on a spiritual journey with our preparation for eternity marked by a commitment to a personal relationship with Jesus and an appreciation for his grace washing away the stupidity and carelessness of our lives. The overall category that God calls sin.
Anticipating, understanding and preparing for each of these next life stages seems like the right and best thing to do. Yet when it comes to preparing for even the first stage of three of retirement, we resort to a resounding “nothing”. The last eight Christian ministry leaders approaching retirement, all had blank looks when I asked what they were going to do next?
Again, because of longevity, there is the growing opportunity to take the wrong path. We see the increasing rate of grey bankruptcy, grey divorce, and grey suicide. We reflect and again choose the wide path during these thirty years while consequently we seem to embrace the ills facing our society instead of the beautiful, helpful, and God honoring. We follow our culture and embrace the negative life issues so prevalent during our first sixty plus years. As Christians we need to stay our course, change our thinking about God’s call, our preparation, and our commitment to building the Kingdom. The needs are great, the call is there and our actions need to reflect our values and God’s priorities for us. We are to be faithful for a lifetime, not just a season.
So how many of us are either approaching or are in our Golden Years? Here is a statistic that tells the story:
10,000 people are turning 65 every day of the year. That’s 3,650,000 a year. When you connect that number with the reality of longevity, we estimate that there are over 30,000,000 Christians over 55, with too many doing nothing about building the Kingdom
Here is a key Bible verse highlighting the need to reframe retirement for Kingdom service:
You have not chosen me, I have chosen you and called you to bear much fruit-fruit that will last, And all that you ask in my Father’s name He will respond to you.
Jesus’ transparent message establishes both the relationship between our God and ourselves, reaches into our inner being and directs our life with the benefit in mind, bearing fruit. It also encourages us that we are not alone as we step out in each of our fruit bearing missions.
Stay tuned for part 2