138 Dirksen Drive, DeBary, FL US 32713
Summer is fading in the distance as we anticipate the coming of the fall season. Cooler temperatures are a harbinger of scenes of hillsides and mountains awash in bright yellows, oranges and reds as the leaves change color in anticipation of the coming winter. Winter will come with its cold and hardships, but even winter has a beauty and elegance that can’t be seen at any other time. Nonetheless, we eagerly await spring’s arrival. Spring promises new life as the many shades of green replace the drab browns of winter. Even the sun shows itself a little more often. We are energized by this new season of the year.
The annual cycle of the seasons is paradigmatic of the cycle of life, isn’t it?
Life is constantly changing, never remaining static. It isn’t supposed to.
Our childhoods are filled with learning, constant adventures, and the laying of critical life foundations. In youth we continue to explore the world, enter into the fascinating world of relationships, and begin to find out who we are. Independence takes root in young adulthood while we launch our careers, find our mates, and seek to find our place in the world. As adults, we master our careers and skills, raise our families, and take responsibility for the course of our church, community, and yes, even the world. As seniors . . . well, we had our time. We had a good run, right?
I didn’t expect to when I was younger but, personally, I love change. I’ve lived in different countries and numerous cities. Each season of my life taught me new things, gave me incredible experiences, and yes, had its difficulties and hardships. All of this has been used by God to shape me into the person I am today.
Chapter one of our church’s Living Grounded curriculum invites us to develop a life map by reflecting on the different stages of our lives. I’ve done that and have come away with a real appreciation for how God has developed and used me over the years through each stage of life. I have found that five things have been true for each of those stages.
- Every new season of life develops you positively as a person and as a follower of Christ.
Ideally, one’s personality and identity as a Christ-follower are integrated, but sometimes we think of our faith as ‘fire insurance’ against God’s judgment. That misses a major point of God’s plan for us. His ultimate goal is to restore us to his own image in which we were originally created. Romans 8:29 says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined [a pre-determination destiny] to be conformed to the image of his Son . . .” Ongoing transformation toward that Christ-likeness is one of God’s primary goals for our everyday lives (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). Every stage of life offers different opportunities for physical, emotional, and spiritual development – opportunities that didn’t exist at the earlier stage.
- Every life stage exposes us to new things.
The world is a big place...but God is even bigger! The prospect of new experiences, new understanding, and new people is amazing. Growing up, the last place I would ever have imagined living as an adult is Africa. I didn’t know anything about the country, but what I thought I knew didn’t interest me. When I learned we were going to Kenya in 1983, I had to pull out an encyclopedia to see where it was. Now, I can’t imagine my life without the experience of twenty-eight years associated with ministry in Kenya. I have changed infinitely for the better. The world is a rich place. I long to see new places, know people who are different than me, and have new experiences. Change is rich.
- Much change only occurs through hardship.
Some years ago, I was playing golf with a friend in Kenya. Brent was having a tough day at golf. I quipped, “Life is tough.” He retorted, “And then you die.” Life is tough and then you die! This pretty well describes life, doesn’t it? Life is hard. Every stage of life has its challenges and hardships, but as much as we try to run from them, they cannot be avoided. God won’t let that happen. Rather, he uses difficulty to shape us into sons and daughters who honor him well, and can be used by him as he brings salvation and spiritual life change to others. This kind of life change is good, but hard. It’s tough to go through, but boy is it worth it!
- Every life stage brings different opportunities to make an impact.
Our sense of significance is grounded in our identity in Christ, but it is also tied to a sense of knowing that we’re here for a reason, and we are making a difference in the lives of others. As young adults, we often have a deep sense of purpose and are ready to change the world. Later on in adulthood, we are making a difference in our families, in our church, and in our careers. Once we reach our older adult years, we have accumulated many skills and much wisdom. Our hearts yearn to make a difference as never before, and we know we can. We’re not finished yet.
- Finally, every stage in life brings a different set of defining decisions.
Each stage of life brings a unique set of decisions that will have a major impact on the direction and quality of our lives. For example, as a young adult my defining decisions involved the choice of a mate and the career I would pursue; but now that I’m in the empty-nest stage and beginning to plan for retirement, will I be a taker or a giver? Will I plan and live my life for my own pleasure, or will I invest my extra time and my accumulated experience in the lives of others and for God’s kingdom? As I age, will I face the wounding and disappointments of the past with forgiveness and reconciliation to empower others, or will I be one who wounds others because I can’t let God heal my past? Every season of life has these decision points. To know these decision points and to choose God’s way brings exciting change. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10 ESV). Every time we choose God’s way, we make a choice for that which gives life rather than robs us of it.
Not every change is good, of course, but God does work to change every experience and circumstance for good for those who are following hard after Christ (Romans 8:28). Change is not just to be accepted, but embraced, valued, and pursued in every season of life. May we dump the status quo and mundane and pursue the changes God has for us – whatever stage of life we are in.