Don't wait too long

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"I would love to go out west, just driving," Lois said. She named other places she would like to see. She spoke about vacationing with her husband, but they were waiting until both could retire. The two had avid plans for that future time.

"Don't wait until you retire before enjoying life, before taking some trips and pursuing interests you'd like to attempt," I advised. "It may be too late."

Many work their whole lives waiting for retirement. What's so great about retirement? I always wondered, because frankly, I remember nowhere in Scripture where it speaks of anyone who retired.

My answer to Lois was based on my lifestyle. Our family always tried to fit pleasurable experiences into life as we went. There were few things we waited to make happen. I'm not talking about instant rewards, being impatient or tackling projects and trips before we could somehow afford them, but I refused to believe in putting life on hold until some far-away time that may never arrive.

Many people become bitter and frustrated when their spouse dies or illness strikes before they were able to complete their plans. They wonder why they neglected to travel together, buy that home or visit relatives they've waited to see. "We'll wait until we retire," they say, while time and desire wear away. It's like their work was a plague, a distasteful medicine they took to keep going rather than an opportunity to use their gifts. Quitting working was a destination, a prize to be won regardless of their age. They've "arrived" at the pinnacle of their goal -- to finally be free.

Life ought to be lived every day. One shouldn't wait until the perfect time to accomplish a mission, start a family, take a trip or be loving or kind. That time ahead may never come. I've talked with many who've put off living. They work, sweat and sacrifice, then ill health arrives or their goals change. For what are they persistently toiling? It's to eventually realize their destination of retirement.

To me, the most enjoyable part of a trip is the traveling to get there -- whatever is between the beginning and the end of my journey. It's the scenery along the way, the stops and the conversations.

I fear that those who wait all their lives to attain the ultimate goal of retiring and catching up on all the things they've wanted to do may be disappointed. One misses out when he waits too long to do that which he desires to do. It's like treading water waiting to get to shore. A lifetime is a long time to tread. Wouldn't taking a boat and experiencing the sights along the bank have been more valuable? Life goes on. There's no magic. You have the same feelings, attitudes and problems you had before. You just fill time differently.

Nevertheless, as I listened to Lois' bubbling talk I felt compassion and also some admiration for her. She was so dedicated to her future life plans, that she couldn't notice and enjoy living today. I remembered the Bible verse, "Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered, and that my life is fleeing away." Psalm 39:4. And I reaffirmed, "Don't wait too long. It may be too late."

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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