This newsletter has highlighted the Finishing the Race retreat that I facilitated for leaders in Dominican Rep. earlier this year. The material is intended to help leaders navigate what Bob Buford has called “Life 2.” He refers to Life 1 being the first half where our focus is success and productivity. Yet those who “finish well” learn to transition during their latter stages of life (“Life 2”) to a focus on doing something of significance.
In his book Finishing Well he points out that in a study of 100 biblical characters, for whom we have sufficient info to go on, only about 30% finished well. Not a great statistics, particularly for biblical characters. Perhaps the author of Scripture is trying to tell us something?
In our western cultures, a full life is to be rewarded with retirement, often meaning “doing as little as possible.” But experts in the field have crunched the numbers and its pretty clear that without a reason to live, without purpose, those “golden years” of retirement become rather short lived. Without a renewed meaning and purpose most don’t last much more than ten years.
While in our latter stages of life this often means adjusting our work load and intensity, it does not have to mean that we spend the last decades of our lives living just for ourselves. Rather, we can continue to fulfill the purpose God has put us on this earth for. This readjustment occurs for some as early as their mid to late thirties and for some as they are considering retirement in their sixties. Due in part to our greater longevity (earlier generations only lived to 40 and 50!), we at some point need to rethink what a meaningful second half or “retirement” would mean.
Interestingly, there is very little in the Bible about retirement. The exception being the priests of the Old Testament who at 50 years of age were to pass on their duties to the younger men. However they were to continue to mentor them. This was their purpose after a lifetime of service and duty. Perhaps, not a bad model. Focusing on relationships, developing others and serving them with the extra time we may have, due to being freed from other obligations.
So while we as a ministry may focus on helping leaders consider how they may continue to impact lives and transition to successfully finish their race, this topic is important for all of us. Even those that are not chronologically there yet, can be benefited by evaluating their values and priorities in light of the inevitability of this short earthly existence.
The Bible’s silence on the topic seems to indicate that God has a purpose for us for as long as he gives us breath and he promises to give us “strength for our days.” Not sure about you, but that is my prayer for my life. Obviously , as we age there will be changes as to how we accomplish this, but he will continue to give us meaning and purpose as we seek to fulfill the race set before us. Then with the Apostle Paul, we can say that we have “kept the faith and finished our race.”