Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Going Out With A Bang

Things are changing at the office.

Sixty-five is no longer mandatory retirement age in Canada, so a few of the men I learned from are still on the job, though they have definitely slowed down. Most are gone despite the change in law. Some even took packages and opted out early. Others who thought they’d work past sixty-five found they were running out of gas and changed their minds. Still others had unexpected health crises or family drama.

Hey, there are no guarantees for any of us, right?

The Best and the Worst

In reading the tail end of the book of 1 Chronicles, I am struck with the way David went out. It is one of the best exits on record.

To be fair, David was king of Israel and a true renaissance man more than two thousand years before there even was a Renaissance. He was a poet, warrior, musician, philosopher, statesman and administrator par excellence. Most of us are not going to be able to match his late-life productivity any more than his mid-life productivity. Still, better to follow David’s example than his son Solomon’s, who started out well but by any spiritual metric finished his life on this earth very poorly indeed.

Upon retiring, one rare soul I worked with for years sold his house, bought a motorhome and traveled all over Canada and the U.S. to finally see the places he’d never had time to visit when he was working. Good for him. But Bill was definitely an outlier. Most of the retired men I know are pretty sad puppies. They had no real plan for their latter days. Without a regular five-day-a-week schedule to organize their lives for them and give them purpose and direction, they spend their days chatting it up with the other retirees at Tim’s or hanging off both sides of a barstool shortly after noon.

I have a suggestion for Christian men. Let’s not do that, or any variation of that. David didn’t.

Time to Divest

If you read the latter chapters of 1 Chronicles attentively, you’ll discover what David did when he passed on the job of running the nation of Israel to his son Solomon. Whole books have been written on this subject, and I won’t attempt to compete with them. But it’s pretty clear there was a lengthy period of overlap in their two reigns, perhaps as much as seven years during which it appears David divested himself of many of the affairs of state in order to concentrate on the things he loved most: the things of God.

It should be noted that when we read phrases like “David did” or “David provided”, it is highly unlikely that he did any of these things personally. Such expressions generally suggest that David oversaw and directed what was done, and that much or all such work was delegated. But the labour that went on was initiated by David and he was responsible for it. Had he not commanded these things, none of them would have been done.

Delegation is probably the sort of thing more male retirees should think seriously about, even if you have to pay someone to do certain things you would normally have taken care of yourself. I know a couple of men who have had unfortunate accidents with ladders and trees that led their loved ones to say things like, “What on earth were you thinking?” The male ego is an evil beast, and often refuses to recognize when age is catching up to us, which is why we do ill-advised things like keeping our driver’s licenses until someone prudently snatches them away. We men often define ourselves by what we are able to do, rather than who we are before God. Mistake.

Quite the List of Accomplishments

And if most of what was done between 1 Chronicles 22 and 29 was delegated work, so what? What an amazing accomplishment it was:
  • Starting in 1 Chronicles 22, we find David preparing for the temple which Solomon would build, laying up all manner of necessary supplies, the very best that was to be be found.
  • We also find him charging his son to carry out his spiritual responsibilities before God.
  • In chapter 23, when David was “old and full of days”, he organizes the Levites in their divisions to better fulfill their responsibilities to God.
  • In chapter 24, David organizes the priests.
  • In chapter 25, the sweet psalmist of Israel orders organizes the musicians.
  • In chapter 26, we read about the organization of the gatekeepers and the treasurers and other Israelite officials, and again David is involved in the process even though this is the fortieth (and last) year of his reign and he is so close to bedridden that if you wanted to talk to him, you might have to see him in his bedchamber.
  • In chapter 27, we are given a list of military commanders, tribal leaders and other officials under David’s rule. It is unlikely he personally appointed all of these men, but since they served under him, we can’t entirely rule it out.
  • In chapter 28, he gets to his feet before the gathered leaders of the nation and charges them to “observe and seek out all the commandments of the Lord your God,” and publicly charges Solomon to “know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought.” Here we also discover that the plan and design for every element in the temple to be built has come from God through David.
  • In chapter 29, he gives his personal treasure to the house of God and prays in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and leads in the offering of sacrifices to the Lord.
Talk about going out with a bang!

The Obvious Question

Now there are some obvious things David did that we’ll be able to strike off our own bucket lists. After all, you and I don’t have anywhere near the resources David had. We don’t have a nation to direct and huge numbers of willing people to whom we may delegate the things we most want to see done. It is unlikely you or I will need to organize the military or give instructions to priests and singers.

But I’m seeing an awful lot of counseling, exhorting, planning, praying, resource divesting, spiritual leadership and public example-setting here that any man among us can emulate, even at quite an advanced age.

So here’s my question: Are we using the assets the Lord HAS given us to maximum effect, or are we puttering away the tail ends of our Christian lives as if there is nothing better to be done?

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