The Rest of The Way Posts

“WHO WERE YOU?”
7/27/2020 11:12:00 AM by: Leona Choy

Such an inappropriate past tense question to ask of someone in retirement or wheelchair-bound in an assisted living residence! Has someone suddenly changed their core identity when they transitioned from the busy marketplace world to a more leisurely lifestyle? We are who we are regardless of whether the change was chosen or mandatory because of the calendar or some suddenly limiting event.

Each of us may assume a dozen different roles in a lifetime. I don't mean a role as in a drama or play. A role as a function or action in relation to someone or something else. It refers to our position in a working environment or career situation. We are often defined by our relationship to family members, church, or community. A role is simply a convenient label to help people identify us.

Sometimes we aren't happy when people identify us only by our role in life. We long to simply be ourselves—whoever we think we are. But that's unrealistic. Try as we may, we can never be our true selves in isolation. We will always find ourselves, our distinctive identity, by relating to someone else. We are our child's mother, someone's next door neighbor, our spouse's “better half,” the sixth grade teacher, the charity volunteer, the retired accountant, our friend's prayer partner.

We are defined by who we are toward God—His child, His disciple, part of His Church, a member of His Body, His obedient servant, His witness.

In the late season of our lives we may find that others are defining us by non-roles we would rather avoid: the new widow, the resident in assisted living, the patient in room 301, the elderly person who lives alone, the object of someone's charity.

The pain may come when we find that a particularly satisfying role is suddenly over. One or more of our roles don't fit us anymore, we have grown out of a role, or we are told that we no longer suit the role. Or someone has stepped into what used to be our role. Others are beginning to carry the torch that we felt we were still carrying so well. In later years we change jobs or lose our job, we move from our neighborhoods, we lose our independence, we are forced to downsize into one room in a retirement residence. We feel nearly as homeless and marginalized as the man who sleeps on the street or under a bridge.

The time comes too soon when our role in relation to others drastically shifts. We lose a spouse or a loved one, our children grow up and no longer seem to need us. The nurturing role in our lives is abruptly at an end. We may feel that we are being benched. We change roles from years of caring for others to being cared for ourselves. Adjustments can be traumatic, especially if we didn't choose to give up those roles; the decision was made for us.

I need to understand who I really am beneath all of life's roles so that when my roles change it will not shake me. If I maintain a constant, intimate relationship with God throughout my lifetime, I should be able to weather the inevitable changes of roles with His enabling. Our relationship with the Lord is our constant, our sure anchor to keep us steadfast and immovable not overwhelmed as we navigate the stormy seas of life.

Rather than grieving over changed or diminishing roles in my later years, why not decide to welcome the adventures that changing roles bring and roll with the new roles. Wherever the Lord has seen fit to plant us at this time of our lives, we are in our heart of hearts just exactly who we always were—the “apple of God's eye,” the object of His love and care.

Yes, regardless of whether we can still be productive or the present moment finds us limited in activity, mobility and confined to be sheltered-in-place. The Lord who ordained all the roles of our lives will give us His grace for the new place He assigned for us.


Comments

Roger From warda At 7/29/2020 5:50:58 PM

When I meet guys at church, or at the gym they often ask, "What did you do?" As if your career defines who you were when you were important. But now as a retiree you're just another insignificant "OLD FART." I hate that.

Reply by: Leona Choy

God knows and applauds you and loves you for the man He has shaped you to be throughout the different seasons of your life. Never mind the attitude of others--you serve God with what you are doing for Him in this season of your life as in past years. He will reward you.

Carole McKinney From Maple Valley, wa At 7/29/2020 12:09:25 PM

One again you hit on my soft spot! The position I am in as a 79 year old, 15 years a widow and grandmother of 10 adults had me feeling no longer of value. Thank you for redirecting my thoughts to how God can now use me in a new way!

Reply by: Leona Choy

Way to go, Carole! As long as the Lord leaves you (us) on earth, we should remain enthusiastically available to Him to keep working through us for His Kingdom. He will supply grace and strength and wisdom and joy for the place to which He has called us.

Clarice From Nebraska At 7/29/2020 11:07:57 AM

Professor Leona! What a good lesson today in Human Development! We are who we always were when God knitted us together in our mother's womb. Amen.

Reply by: Leona Choy

Amen! Just as He keeps giving you grace for the place He has planted you, keep yourself (ourselves, me included) "restfully available" to stay open to keep fulfilling the destiny He planned for us. Age doesn't send us "out to pasture." We "lie down in green pastures where He keeps "restoring our soul" and giving us wisdom and strength.

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