Reflections from The Afternoon of Life: Finding Purpose and Joy in Midlife by Elyse Fitzpatrick
Who gave Elyse Fitzpatrick permission to declare the “afternoon of life” as beginning at 45? This was my feisty initial joking reaction. I know every day is a gift from our gracious God, and none of us are guaranteed a day, but if God is willing to allow me to live as long as my dear grandmother, then perhaps it is not past 11 a.m. for me. I am thankful that God has granted me good health, and that most days I don’t feel like “an older woman.”
Yet as I began to read the reviews of the book, I was drawn to a comment that Martha Peace made. She said she wished that she had this book when she was just entering this time in her life. It made me think about parenting and how there were times when I wished I had “read ahead” and planned better for what I would face in the future.
So, this book is a blessing to me and hopefully to women of all ages; for these are things we will all face, albeit some sooner than others…. at least if God is willing to grant us the gift of time here on earth.
My youngest is now 16, and while in some ways she needs me more than ever, I do have a bit more flexibility in my schedule. I still like to see her off to school and pick her up each afternoon, but last year I began tutoring inner city children with others from our church. Each Tuesday, we meet at First Step Services, a homeless shelter in our community, and offer ourselves to these children. Our goals are pretty simple:
Build relationships with the kids and show them genuine love
Help them with their homework and set goals for them to achieve needed scholastic skills
Teach them about our awesome God and His gift of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins
It has been a joy, and sometimes a challenge, to work with these kids. We have seen many changes in them as we seek to consistently model truthfulness, gentleness and patience (sometimes lots of it)! We begin each week with a craft and game time. Sometimes the boys aren’t interested in a particular craft activity, so there is usually a Jenga game going on. All of this time spent with them allows us to listen to them and interact about things that are going on in their lives. We encourage them to bring their homework so we can help them, but we also track skills they need to work on (like flash cards and reading) and we come ready to make
good use of the time we have with them. The last 30 minutes of each Tuesday are spent teaching them about who God is and what He’s like. Of course there’s a snack being eaten while they listen and answer questions, but what is exciting is that we’ve seen these kids progress from disinterest and disrespect the first week to actually listening (mostly) and participating. Please join me in praying for the salvation of these children!
So as I see that the time is approaching (and in some ways is here) when my children will be needing less of my time, I want to seek to live with a focus on others, and less on myself. As Elyse reminded us, “A woman will always find more fulfillment in living biblically than in trying to fulfill herself through popular means. The way to find our life is to lose it.”
There were many other ways we were encouraged to seek to serve in… So many opportunities, so little time!
Teaching younger women (mentoring, counseling)
Women who build up, encourage, entreat and console
Women of prayer and praise
Women who evangelize
Women of Service
So let’s seek to grow in all of these, and use the years that the Lord has allotted us to continue to live for the benefit of others, and thus to the glory of God! In this way, we can strive to leave a legacy of generosity and love for God for the next generation, seeking to give of ourselves as Christ gave for us.