The Second Half of Life and Sunday School: Revisited

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)

I am very thankful for a mom who believed in this Proverb. She began teaching me in the cradle about God’s love, God’s Word and living for God. Many SS teachers, pastors, family members and other church leaders did as well. I memorized Scripture, participated in sword drills, learned Bible truths, and in my teenage years began reading the Bible through many times. The foundation was set and I am grateful!
Preschool, children’s, youth and young adult teachers have the potential for a lasting impression and impact on your students. You are building the foundation for your students to grow in faith, wisdom and knowledge that will last a lifetime. They learn about unconditional love from God, the importance of self-discipline as a disciple and their purpose in using their gifts for God.
So what do we teach persons about the second half of life? We have the foundation. Hopefully, we have been self-disciplined in living out of God’s Word. So what now? Is there a shift that needs to take place? If you are teaching persons who are Baby Boomers (Born between 1946-1964) or older persons, we may need to think about a new paradigm of what it means to be a disciple in the second half of life.
I have to admit that this is a lesson God brought to me by a layperson at FBC Altavista recently through his readings from Richard Rohr. It was timely as I considered the second half of life (I turned 50 today.) Here are some lessons to consider:

It is not what you know, but who God is that prepares you for the second half of life. The more I know about God’s standard, and my mistakes, the more I need to lean on God’s grace. Of course this requires me to be vulnerable to the truth, and have a willingness to confess my failures and naiveté. As I do, I begin realizing just how great God is. I see that God is more interested in a relationship with me than anything else. Like my children when they make a mistake, I want to encourage them, challenge them and inspire them to greater things, but mostly, I want to go deeper in a relationship with them as young adults. My relationship with them changes as they get older.

Letting go of the world’s standards and living a simpler lifestyle leads to true freedom in Christ. I can honestly confess that in the first half of life, I sought to fill a void with prominence with my competitiveness in athletics, academics, accumulating accolades, and things. I placed a lot of importance on Christmas presents, birthday presents and stuff. (Katrina is anxiously searching for a birthday present for me even as I am writing this blog. It is what we do for persons we love.) Though there are moments when I still wish for something, I am learning the value of letting go of things. These days I find real joy in giving things away. I honestly believe this is at the heart of what Christ would want. In the second half of life, we need to let go of prominence, power and control. We need to let go of things that we don’t need, and seek to help those who are in need (See Blog “Groundhog Day” for more.)
One of my professors tried to teach me this lesson just before I graduated from college, but I wasn’t ready. Dr. Bill Cowley, retired missionary from Nigeria, told me one day that his wife was so excited that she found bread at a day old bakery much cheaper than at the store. It wasn’t to save money for them and their wants. It was to send more to the mission field! They had learned to live in the second half of life. It is about letting go of things and investing in God’s kingdom.

Trusting and leaning on others is essential to live in the second half of life. Katrina and I have been discovering this lesson more each day with new health issues and living in a new place. I find this to be the most challenging one for me. We are taught to be self-reliant and make our way. There will come a day, like Peter, when:

“Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (John 21:18 NIV)

Unless we begin teaching older adults about the second half of life, they will be frustrated when the time comes to allow another to dress/lead them.

About tonystopic

Seeker and connector to the abundant life as a husband (to Katrina), father (to Tara & Joseph) and Field Strategist/Sunday School Specialist for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.
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