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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Retirement: Growing Old or Growing Young

by Paul Hettinga

This picture of my parents has always inspired me. At nearly 70 years old they were on a trip to Colorado to see first hand what Young Life did with kids. One of the day trip options was this incredible raft trip. They jumped at the opportunity. Wow! What a great picture of a couple who expanded their lives as they grew older, who experienced more as they grew older and who felt that each day was a gift from God. Their lives hadn’t always been so. Maybe I’ll write about that another time.

Late in life they got involved in a number of mission trips, ministry projects, embraced a steadily broadening group of people they came to love and in general ‘grew their lives’ in ways that we’re counterintuitive to retirement. Instead of doing less, they did more. Instead of shrinking their circle of friends, they broadened it. Instead of narrowing their view of politics, religion, social and cultural issues, they broadened their perspective. They became more embraced by God’s spirit of love, of growth, of generosity and of open-mindedness and embraced others in these same ways.

My dad died 10 years ago and my mom is now in Assisted Living in Grand Haven. It is such a joy to watch her being loved now in these same ways by all the people who she and my dad loved so generously all those years. In fact there is one young man who spends nearly every Tuesday morning with mom, reading to her since she has lost her sight to macular degeneration. Earlier in her life, my mom had done the same for his grandmother for many years before she died and he is now returning the favor by reading to her each week. As Proverbs teaches us, life is circular. Throughout their lives, mom and dad sowed a life of love and gracious hospitality, and now my mom is reaping all the same love and generous care from so many family and friends.

I’ve been retired from my career now for 6 months and have tried to focus on who God wants me to be and who I want to be for the rest of my life. I’ve taken the advice of many friends who have retired before me and have not made any long-term commitments yet. I’m trying to give myself and God time enough to discern these most important questions before I start getting busy again.

The example of my mom and dad’s expanding version of growing old reaches deep into me and inspires me to do no less. I’m inspired by both of them to broaden my own viewpoints, to be more accepting of those who disagree with me or with whom I disagree, to be generously loving and to live generously – not ‘holding too tightly’ to the resources God has given me, investing them in the lives God brings to me.

Finally, I’m inspired to simply be more available to the day, to being where I am, to accepting myself as being good enough just as I am. I want to live towards others in the same way. God’s gracious and forgiving love makes it possible to live this way. And here’s another even greater point; once you start living this way, it’s both infectious and expansive to the point that it becomes hard not to live this way.

So for now – it’s enough to not do too much, to take time and to let God’s quiet voice and spirit embrace me. I hope that God will plant deeply within me many of the same qualities that I saw in my mom and dad. From that place, who knows what I might end up being and doing?

Let the adventure continue!

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