Breaking Free of Midlife Boundaries

By Ed Chinn
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Too often, we see the church or other Christian environments as the only place we can serve. We forget how much God loves the world.

Daniel and Joseph are great models for representing heaven on earth.

Both men were taken captive and carried away from all that was familiar. They each lived and worked in societies which were alien, even hostile, to their faith. But, that did not stop or slow them. They remained faithful to God and served long and well in the land of their exile.

There is no biblical record that they reacted against the pagan culture in which they lived and led. Both leaders took incredibly redemptive and positive attitudes toward their captors or place of exile. I find it astonishing and instructive that Joseph worked to save Egyptian civilization.

It is a mistake to believe that our environment must be righteous or Christian before we can serve. We are all “aliens and strangers” on earth (1 Peter 2:11). We are agents of another realm, emissaries of heaven. We can discharge that role regardless of the society where we live.

Gathering Up and Giving Back

God is a Giver. Out of His bountiful nature, He scatters. Humans are gatherers. We hoard. But, it does seem to me that as we get older we gradually move closer to, and better reflect, the Lord’s nature. Somehow, we learn to scatter.

Most people in midlife reverse the consuming trend and begin to give possessions away — family heirlooms, works of art, books, letters, diaries, collectibles, money, etc. We seem to instinctively know that we “can’t take it with us.” So, we start giving back into our family, churches, ministries, museums, etc.

I know a retired FBI agent who teaches at a local college, a retired nurse who cares for elderly poor people and a retired journalist who works with children who struggle in school. A dear friend and his wife left all that was familiar and moved halfway around the world in order to serve Muslims.

All of these friends gathered up the gifts and graces and resources which the Lord had invested in them over decades. And, they decided to pour them out, as an offering of gratitude toward the Lord.

One of these friends actually gathered his children and told them he wanted to give away a large chunk of their inheritance. All released and blessed him to do precisely that!

Being Scattered

I will always be grateful for the church and for Christian friends. But, I also wonder if we sometimes take the wrong kind of comfort and security from our enclaves of faith. Can the church become a “bunker,” a place where we hide from the unknown? Are we afraid of the “contaminations” of larger society?

Daniel and Joseph (and Jesus) never revealed any fear of the unknown or of contamination. They fully engaged those around them — regardless of who they were or what they believed.

This issue is profoundly relevant to those in midlife. Most have astonishing gifts, skills, talents and experiences which should be shared with others.

But, too often, we see the church or other Christian environments as the only place we can serve. We forget how much God loves the world. He created it and sustains it by His word. Throughout all history, He has relentlessly sent the gifts and skills and graces within His people — like Joseph and Daniel — back out to the larger community and world.

I recall a fine Christian gentleman named Ronald Reagan. He forged past the small confines of service and gave himself to the world (and, he was elected President well past midlife at 69). And, consider so many other Christians who stepped beyond the church and served the larger community. A list would include a very diverse circle of people like Tony Dungy, Paul Harvey, Peter Drucker, Annie Dillard, Robert E. Lee, Dr. Ben Carson, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.

Sometimes, the only way we will scatter our gifts and talents is when we’re forced to do it. Jesus told His disciples (and, by extension, all who would follow Him) to go into all the earth. But, they clustered in Jerusalem. So, with the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 70 A. D., they finally dispersed.

Persecution and adversity are just two of the tools in God’s workshop. I know many people who were forced out of the ministry by finances, scandal, illness or other adversities. When that happened, they discovered larger fields of service outside the church. Several have told me that they thank God for pushing them “out of the church.”

Our Historic Opportunity

I think we all stand at a unique point of history. Because of scientific and medical advances, people are remaining healthy and productive into their 80s and beyond. So many of them have acquired and achieved unimaginable things.

Every person reading this article has attained something which would simply blow the circuit boards in some people and organizations. They would love to have you hang around!

Most of us underestimate our value. Somewhere, someone needs what YOU have received from a life of walking with God.

Your gifts and graces carry a beautiful aromatic scent emanating from the Lord’s touch.

What will you do with the great treasure you’ve acquired? Will you consume it or pour it out?

Is it possible that you could be the portal for abounding life to be released into a dark and needy place?

Copyright 2009 by Ed Chinn. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Ed Chinn

Ed Chinn, of Spring Hill, Tennessee, is a writer and speaker. His work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Post,, and the Fort Worth Star Telegram.

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