I still remember this from when I was around the age of 9. I was on the floor in our living room playing jacks and my dad was talking to some teens from the youth group of our church where he was the pastor. It was graduation time and the topics all turned to ‘What am I going to do with the rest of my life?’ The draft was still active back then, which meant many young men exchanged their career choice with compulsory military service. There were also fewer career options, but the decisions were made with no less deliberation. One of the kids was lamenting “… I want to be a veterinarian but that would take me 8 whole years of my life.” To a nine year old tossing a ball up and down while swiping jacks into her palm, that sounded sensible, but not to my dad. His impressionable remark, “You’re going to live those years anyway, you might as well be working toward something you really want to do.” I don’t remember the rest of the story, whether that kid grew to be a veterinarian or if they lived a fulfilling life. I know that the advice still makes sense to anyone who has aspirations to do something they are passionate about.
I always get a kick out of hearing someone tell a young person, “You have your whole life ahead of you.” Well, duh! Don’t we all still have our whole life ahead of us? Some of us have a smaller part of the whole ahead, but seriously – let me make this clear – You still have your whole life ahead of you.
Taken out of context, but here’s something from John 9:4 that says, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me.” As long as it is day – maybe that means there is something we all can do during the hours we aren’t sleeping. We all have the same amount of time, but we are all unique in how we use it. Even for the retired, there is opportunity. Let’s keep it simple. Live through the day acting out the words in Colossians 4:5-6 “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” The answer is ‘Just be kind. Think before speaking. Consider the consequences of that act.’
I’ve heard people say you aren’t supposed to enjoy work; that’s why they call it work. Um that would be a false statement. Ecclesiastes 3:22 gives us permission to enjoy the work we choose. “So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot..” And what about the verse in Deuteronomy 2:7 which points out that our work is a blessing? “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.” Now I realize these 40 years are not the same as a chosen career – but add it up. If you choose a career at age 18 and start working in your field at age 24 or 25 – add 40 years. I rest my case. And no, I don’t believe age 65 for retirement was intentionally set based on the 40 years of desert wandering.
Some of us have plans to never retire, but to live out our purpose in some capacity until the air we breathe is celestial. Here are words to aspire to whether you are age 9 or 9, read from the Message translation of Philippians 2:1-4. “If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”