Homeland Bound - Redirecting Life's Path Post Middle-Age
Manna 62: The Miracles of Jesus

Sarah Lin—Chicago, Illinois, USA

With my children grown up and no longer in need of immediate parental care, I find myself having more free time to spare. This stage of life has often been termed the “empty nest” stage. But an empty nest does not mean an empty life, and I have found that it is a golden time for personal reflection and growth.

As I get older, losing people close to me makes the fragility of life a reality, inevitably leading me to reflect upon my faith journey. My uncle has five sons, three of whom have already passed away. And ever since I learned that my elderly mother fainted at church during Sabbath service, I started my annual trips to visit her in Taiwan.

For myself, my doctor informed me that I had high levels of bad cholesterol and advised me to change my diet and exercise more. With these warnings, I am reminded to also do a “health checkup” of my spiritual life.

As I pass middle age and head towards old age, I realize the need to refocus my life, especially after my children have grown up. It is not merely the time to prepare for a smooth transition into old age—it is the time to prepare for life in eternity.

WALKING WITH GOD

            For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. (1 Tim 4:8, 9)

With the additional spare time I have gained, I started to take better care of my physical and spiritual health. I added regular workouts to my routine because of my high cholesterol. I find that I’m more apt to stick with a regular exercise program when I combine spiritual cultivation and physical exercise. Gaining spiritual nutrition provides the motivation to persist with my exercise routine, and the benefits I actually reap far outweigh those of the physical exercise alone.

I enjoy walking for forty-five to sixty minutes most days of the week. Walking can be dull, but listening to sermons during my walks counteracts the tedium. Meditation on the sermon also makes time fly. Reading articles in Holy Spirit Monthly or Manna when using exercise equipment also takes my mind off the exercise.

I feel as if God talks to me as I work out. Through the sermons I listen to and the articles I read, I am often amazed at how quick and responsive God is in answering my questions, issues, and needs communicated in prayer. My daily walks around the neighborhood are like walking with God in the garden—a quiet and sweet hour with Him.

PREPARING FOR THE END OF THE RACE

            Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1, 2)

As my children have grown up, I have found more time for reflection. This is a good time to also evaluate my spiritual life and faith. A Christian’s goal is to finish the race and meet God face to face. As I move nearer to the end, I reflect more and more on whether I am ready to meet God.

For years, I went to church regularly and participated in many areas of church work. However, the motivation behind my participation varied from obligation, maintaining my reputation, to proving myself to others.

Serving the Lord became a burden and lost its meaning because I served for the wrong motives. I have come to realize that even worshipping God through heartfelt hymn singing, praying, and attending services is serving Him.

I do not need to do great things, prove myself through holy work, or maintain a position on the church council. Now I enjoy serving my Lord in whatever capacity I can, just as described by the hymn, “Something for Thee.”

Furthermore, I want to serve Him in areas that I had previously considered to be my weaknesses and beyond my abilities to perform. I pray that “the power of Christ may rest upon [me]” (2 Cor 12:9). Nowadays, when I serve in church, I recognize that people’s opinion of me should not be the motivating force. Instead, I do my best to bring glory to God’s name and to edify people around me.

At this stage of life, what I need to focus on is to pursue a closer relationship with God, as I long to meet Him face to face for eternity in the heavenly homeland.

CONTINUING A HERITAGE OF FAITH

            That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,
That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments. (Ps 78:6, 7)

Although my children are adults, I still hope to be a source of guidance and support for them, especially in their walk of faith. Paul reminded Timothy that his faith was modeled after his grandmother and mother (2 Tim 1:5). I recall that my mother often told us the testimonies of my grandmother, passing on great examples of faith to me.

My children now need to strengthen their own faith and relationship with God. As much as I would like to, I cannot run the race for them. But I continue to pray for them, asking for God to guide them and sustain their faith.

My daughter is currently in college and has been actively participating in church work and her campus fellowship. It is a pleasure to see her grow in faith. I enjoy discussing the Bible with her and strengthening our bond and friendship along the way.

I also write down my own testimonies in the hope that my children will read them and pass them onto the next generation as part of their heritage of faith. My brother built a Chinese website that contains many testimonies from our extended family. His intention is to leave a “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) for our family members and descendants.

I hope that my husband and I have set good examples for our children to follow as our parents did for us. Then, one day, we shall all meet together in our eternal heavenly home.

RECONNECTING AS HEIRS TOGETHER OF THE GRACE OF LIFE

            Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your vain life which He has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity; for that is your portion in life, and in the labor which you perform under the sun. (Eccl 9:9)

In the process of raising children and sustaining a livelihood, years can simply fly by. As I once read, “The days are long but the years are short.” When our children still lived at home, my husband and I devoted much time to them and consequently had less time for each other.

With the children now grown up, it’s time for us to rekindle our love and pay more attention to each other. Marriage in the Lord is a bond between two people who should be sharing the grace of life blessed by God: “Husbands, likewise, dwell with [your wives] with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet 3:7).

God has blessed me with a good husband. We both held full-time jobs when raising our children, and he shared the workload of household chores and childcare without a murmur. These days, we enjoy each other’s company by taking walks together, going to the fitness center, or just doing grocery shopping. It is a blessing to have him as my constant companion now that our children have left the house.

My husband and I have been complementary partners in serving the Lord over the years. We will continue running our race together as heirs of the grace of life. For this, I really thank God.

ON THE WAY HOME

            “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know.” (Jn 14:2-4)

With children no longer at home, it is easier for me to travel. In recent years, whenever I go back to my native Taiwan, I relate more closely to the Chinese aphorism, “Falling leaves return to their roots.” Even though the roots may have grown so differently from when I left, such feelings of nostalgia bring out the goal of the heavenly home ever so poignantly.

The chorus of the hymn “Mid Pleasures and Palaces” says, “Home, home, sweet, sweet home! Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home!” Similarly, the lyrics of the hymn “When We All Get to Heaven” remind us that “[i]n the mansions bright and blessed, He’ll prepare for us a place. When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be!”

As I am discovering, it is especially important for empty nesters to constantly think about returning to our heavenly home. While there are many responsibilities that we still take care of and much of life to still enjoy, it is important to draw closer to God as we near the end of the race.

            But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. (Jude 20, 21)

If we can follow this teaching closely, we can be assured that we are heading back to our heavenly home.


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