The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


These are the good days

My father didn't live to reach "three score years and ten" (Psalm 90:10; King James Version). He died when he was 63 and I was 12. I'm thinking more about him lately now that I've passed age 63. I'm also retired and find myself in a life transition I didn't fully anticipate. As I contemplate my future, it's only natural to think about the past and my loved ones, including my parents who are now gone.

Ecclesiastes 2:16 tells us that no matter how well we may have conducted our life, we will still surely die. I've read this and related Scriptures over the years, but now I'm paying more attention. I'm beginning to think about the harsh reality that the mortality rate really is 100 percent. But I'm trying to focus on a hopeful future that wasn't widely available to my father and to my parents' generation.

More than 100 years ago, life expectancy in the U.S. was not quite 50 years. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt introduced Social Security in 1935, few Americans lived long enough to enjoy a life after work. Like my dad, F.D.R. was only 63 when he died near the end of World War II. In 1955, the year my father died, the average American was lucky to reach the biblical 70 years. Today the life expectancy in America is in the 80s. We have reached a point where retirement is no longer a brief period before death. Maybe we should retire the word retirement.

Every day in our country, 10,000 baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) reach age 65. They're redefining how to approach the post-career years not available to earlier generations.

What it means to be old is changing. Retirement is becoming more a process than an event. Nowhere in Scripture do we find support for retirement from all work and volunteer activities. As long as we're able, we can continue to look for ways to make a positive contribution to the world around us.

We may live longer now, but God provides us with only this one day. Patsy was a co-worker whose 35-year-old daughter was dying of cancer. When I visited her daughter in the hospital she mentioned Psalm 118:24 ("This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.") and asked what lesson I might learn from it. I said God may be teaching us to bring a positive spirit to each day. She agreed, but said the central message to her was that God promises us only today and that we should live this day without regret, being kind to others, seeking God's will for this day, yet mindful that there is no promise of tomorrow.

I want to cherish each day as a valuable gift from God, so my stewardship responsibility is to consider how to use the time I have left. In Ephesians 5:16 we are encouraged to "make the most of the time." As people age, wealth and material things are often less significant, while personal relationships take precedence.

I remember fondly many life experiences, but mostly I anticipate the future. Why not? Hopefully, I have many good years ahead, and my intent and hope is that when my last day arrives, I'll be able in good conscience to say as Paul did: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7). I think my dad would agree. 


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February issue


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