Since committing my life to God in my teens, I have sought to navigate in the midstream of God's will as I have understood it and whatever has been my state in life at the time. There is no cruise control for a Christian. Every season of life has its distinct challenges. I have always believed in lifelong continuous course adjustments.
In my advanced years, I've had a late-in-life pull in two directions:
HURRY! redeem the time, the day is far spent to do the Kingdom work to which God called me and for which He gifted me. At my age the time is short at best. God said in His Word that we should "be zealous for good works." I find great joy in creative writing and also in pursuing a ministry of encouragement and spiritual building into the lives of others. Those two aspects are in tandem, part of God's one calling in my life. I work hard at my writing and blessing others with the fruit of those joyful labors. To God be the glory always. I want to be a good steward and give Him a full basket of spiritual fruit in thanksgiving for choosing me, saving me, calling me, and blessing me so abundantly.
On the other hand, well-meaning friends urge me to be reasonable. To SLOW my pace at my age; that it's time to be temperate, to take it a little easier. God is eternal and not time-bound. He can build His Kingdom with or without me. I should walk and work more leisurely.
I need to be sure which voice, which tug, which whisper is God's express will for me or simply my human zeal and desire for accomplishment or the expectations of others. In any given situation how can I discern whether I should I run or walk? I know very well that God doesn't measure His pleasure with me by success as the world looks at it, but by my faithfulness on obedience; not by quantity accomplished, but by God-breathed and anointed quality. Can I somehow balance these seeming opposites? Somehow still do them both and please my Master's heart?
I can't see myself objectively. I need God to fine tune my life now as much as I did in my youth and prime years. As a writer, I call this surrendering to God's editing.
When I edit a manuscript I use a blue pencil not only to correct mistakes but tighten the document for clarity to better accomplish the purpose for which it was written. I cross out superfluous words and elsewhere select more appropriate ones. I'm able to edit my own manuscripts only to a point because I view myself and my work too subjectively. I need God's divine perspective.
When God edits my life He uses the blue pencil of the Holy Spirit. He crosses out my superfluous involvements, steers me away from distractions, and gets my priorities back in focus for spiritual growth. He factors in my season of life and changes taking place in my “earth suit” (mortal body).
In my most advanced season of life, God's editing increases in importance because time is running out to complete my life course. I lack wisdom and capability in the natural to make the adjustments necessary. God is the one to let me know what changes He wants me to make with His enabling. How can I hear His voice? Sometimes it is an inward knowing, sometimes it is His loving tap on the shoulder. I need to listen carefully and obey so that He will not have to use less gentle means to get my attention.
I usually sense the need most keenly for this editing at chronological milestones. I'm approaching another birthday on June 22. In Chinese tradition 8 is the luckiest number—so 88 should usher in a twice blessed year! Some friends are asking me again, “Isn't it about time for you to retire?” Others take for granted that I've already been retired for decades because I'm not punching a time clock.
I've always maintained that I would never retire but just keep going full speed ahead on my writing and publishing ministry. To “retire” seems to imply not having to do anything or having anything to do. Why would I want to live that way? Writing was/is my ministry, my gift, my calling from God, my opportunity, and my pleasure and satisfaction. I can retire from a job but not from God's calling. God may adjust His expectations according to my ability to fulfill my call and changes in my state in life, but He doesn't withdraw it.
Yes, in the sense of not drawing a paycheck or making money, I've already been "retired" for several decades since I left my administrative position with Ambassadors For Christ, Inc., the mission ministry my late husband Ted and I helped to establish. However, my normal lifestyle continued to be, more often than not, working at writing for a full day every day—as if I were not “retired.” In my lifetime I've written and published more than a couple dozen books. It has not been without a bit of wear and tear on my “earth suit” and some “senescent vigor depletion.”
The unexpected “retirement, resignation, renouncement, stepping down” of Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI gave me pause, although I can't compare my reasons or circumstances for a potential course adjustment with his. He faced the reality of his own increasing physical frailty and diminishing energy due to his age. I empathize with that. I'm two years older than he, but thank God, still comparatively energetic despite being a longtime cancer survivor. He explained that he was “stepping down and stepping back in order to step up.” Following what He believed was God's leading, He resigned his public calling as Pope to spend the rest of his life in isolation, contemplation, and prayer. At the same time, many have encouraged him to continue his important writing.
Well, I'm not ill in any debilitating sense at present, but my “earth suit” has begun to protest the long hours at the computer. I've been trying to alleviate the creaks and groans and pain in my lower back. I sense that God's editing is coming in part as a tap on the shoulder from that direction—I've been advised to scale down the length of time I spend sitting at my computer!
The Pope Emeritus has retreated to a monastery. I'm sure God isn't leading me to enter a convent! And I don't envision that He wants me to stop writing. I think the still, small voice of God is a nudge to somewhat moderate my pace while accelerating my spiritual pace. I hope to learn to walk and work at a more realistic daily stride in line with my season of life.
I don't exactly know how to do that! I've always been a race horse, a self-goal-setter, deadline-meeter, and high achiever. A Chinese proverb describes such a life as “galloping on horseback through a field of beautiful flowers.” You can't “smell the roses” that way and might even trample on them. Besides, you are likely to wear out the horse! I realize how seldom I allow time for non-work. I understand G.K. Chesterton when he said, “I never have enough nothing to do.” I can learn from Jesus when He called His disciples to come apart for rest and restoration after they returned from doing the work He had given them.
“Let your moderation [temperance] be known unto all. The Lord is near [at hand, coming soon]” (Philippians 4:5 in various translations). Perhaps my “nose-to-the-grindstone” intensity and productivity is better “known to all” than my moderation. That is nothing to be proud of. Temperance is defined as “showing self-restraint in action, exercising self-control, not being extreme.” In Galatians 5:23 temperance is listed as one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Intemperance, therefore, is lack of moderation, overindulgence, excess in anything even something positive and good. If I lack temperance, one of the essential Spirit fruits has fallen off my life tree.
I find it extremely difficult to change lifelong overwork habits. Adjustments may not go smoothly. I will have to exercise strong self-discipline. I may slip back into pushing myself to meet self-deadlines and reach worthy goals. I know I can't go “cold turkey” and modify my lifestyle all at once. I can expect withdrawal challenges. God helping me, I'm going to pray and try to gradually reshape my days and refine my priorities according to the Lord's editing to achieve better balance. Along with scaling down my computer sitting/writing time, I hope to edit in more time to refresh and restore myself physically, spiritually, and every other way to achieve better balance. (Perhaps!)
The above may not sound like a very big deal to some, but for me it borders on the drastic! My desire is to do the complete will of God and to produce the maximum spiritual fruit for Him the rest of my way Home. Here's the sticky part for me: I believe I really have, to this point, written and published and done the will of God according to what I understood of His purpose for my life. At the same time, I haven't written and done all that I myself hoped or still want to write and do for the Lord.
So I asked some of my dear special friends to pray for me as I pray for myself:
“Lord, grant me wisdom to know the difference between Your will and my will and give me the strength and discernment to press on to accomplish YOUR will as You reveal it to me. I give You permission to “edit” my life in any way that will please You.”
Some friends responded immediately with good advice along with the promise of their prayers helping me toward a proper perspective. One friend put it this way: "Each morning ask the Lord for wisdom to face that unique, new "unEDITed" day and let God EDIT it Himself so that you may be a crEDIT to Him!"
That sounds like good spiritual and practical advice: Perhaps I shouldn't be as concerned about making some sweeping, drastic, overall lifestyle changes or work-style decisions. Each day I will look to the Lord for His specific will for that day whether He wants me to walk or run, work or play, write at my computer (or how long!) or minister to a neighbor, restore myself or help bear the burden of a friend, etc.
The main thing is to let the Lord hold my hand daily and determine that day's pace—or to accept multiple paces within one day.
Of course! Really good common sense and spiritual wisdom!