“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven” (Eccl. 3:1).
When we answer the call to follow Jesus and get swept up into the new life of the Kingdom, we should surrender all to God. Jesus wants all of us, not just a small, convenient corner of our life. Eugene Peterson’s translation urges us to “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering” (Rom. 12:2).
But let’s be honest: each season of our life is different and more conducive for certain dimensions of discipleship than others. I want to briefly walk through the seasons of a typical life, and suggest a paradigm for Kingdom investment and formation tailored for each of these seasons.
Please note that each aspects of spiritual formation and/or Kingdom investment discussed below should be evident and active in all seasons of life; but they are perhaps more fitting for certain seasons. For simplicity sake, I’ve chosen to limit myself to five stages or seasons of life, and the suggested ages are all very fluid and flexible and may vary widely from person to person and overlap at times.
Childhood years (0-12) – Key focus: IMAGINATION
2. Adolescent years (13-18) – Key Focus: IDENTITY
3. Early adult years (19-29) – Key Focus: FIRST LOVE/RELATIONAL CENTER
4. Family & career years (30-60) – Key Focus: TALENTS & TREASURES
5. Empty nest/retirement years (61+) – Key Focus: TIME & WISDOM
There comes a day, for most, when the kids are finally out of the house and our careers are winding down. The “R-word” dances alluringly on the horizon. We find ourselves in the empty nest and finally retirement years. This is the season where followers of Jesus can make their biggest contribution to God’s Kingdom work, as they finally have what has alluded them for the past 40 years — time! This is also the moment when one’s true worldview and priorities is most clearly revealed. Will we offer the precious time of our retirement years in service to God’s Kingdom and church family? Or will we spend our final years playing out the plot of a completely unChristian story — self-indulging in personal hobbies, recreational pursuits, endless travels, obsessing over our deteriorating health and seeking every possible way to prolong our life? In seeking to “stay alive” many stop living for a purpose beyond their own pleasures and comforts during these years.
“I have called you to bear much fruit,” Jesus tells every 60+ old retiree. This is the season where time is your greatest asset, and you can invest it into God’s Kingdom and your own spiritual development. Its the season to mentor youth, take on additional roles at your church, or go on mission trips to broaden your horizons. Ideally, this is also your wisdom-dispensing years where you can share your life’s experience and faith lessons with younger people, inspiring and encouraging them to carry on in tough times and to learn from your mistakes. Let me be clear: this doesn’t eliminate the blessings of a slower, more relaxing pace. The joys of traveling and new hobbies in retirement are all gifts from God to be received and enjoyed without guilt. But we must be vigilant that we don’t squander what could be our most fruitful years of kingdom service in a self-indulgent lifestyle of retirement pleasures and leisurely pastimes.
As I stated above, each of the five aspects of discipleship and spiritual formation above are part of every season of our life. So, the 90 year old is still to be pursuing a Christ-shaped imagination, and the 45 year old career woman should make sure her identity is always rooted in Christ and not her performance. Adolescents also have unique talents and limited treasures they are to be learning to offer to God. Disciples of all ages must be sure to keep nurturing our love-relationship with our Savior.
Still, I offer this as a helpful guide to make sure we’re offering to God what is most precious and vital in each season of our lives.
What season are you currently in? (Remember ages are all relative and overlapping seasons is typical.)
Looking back over your life so far, can you recall pursuing and/or growing in these various areas of discipleship? (Imagination, identity, Christ as relational center, talent and treasures, time and wisdom)
Which area might God want to teach you more in this season of your life?
Which of these areas are you strongest? Weakest? Why?