Having cruised past 65 years of age, I’m feeling vulnerable enough to think about mortality. Pop culture thinks 65 means you’re getting old . . . just about quittin’ time. However, actuaries say if you live to 60 you’ll likely survive to at least 81 years of age.
Through the years I’ve reinvented my career a couple of times, so it’s not uncommon to be asked, “What are you doing now?” And when I tell them I’ve launched a new book publishing company, they’re not embarrassed to say, “Really? At your age you’re starting over?” That question betrays a bias that there is a limit to our productive years. Let’s think about that . . .
- During the 1940s, while in his 20s, John Glenn survived a combined 149 combat missions in the South Pacific and Korea—149!
- In the 1950s, at age 36, Glenn flew the first supersonic flight across America— California to New York—in 3 hours and a few minutes.
- In the 1960s, at age 41, John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the earth. The first.
- In the 1970s, at age 53 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving 24 years.
That’s more than enough for one lifetime, right! Maybe not . . .
- Because in the 1990s, at age 77, John Glenn became the oldest astronaut when he rocketed into space aboard the shuttle Discovery—77!
At an age when most of us are re-checking Social Security benefits, John Glenn’s mission was not complete. He did not quit. As Ron Hutchcraft observed, we could use an army of “spiritual” John Glenn’s—that is, experienced men and women who don’t measure their lives in years, but in the fulfillment of their mission. People with no quit!
One of my heroes is Caleb!
In Joshua 14, Scripture reminds us that at the ripe old age of 40, Caleb was sent by Moses as one of 12 spies to scout out the Promised Land. Only Caleb and Joshua came back believing God could lead them to victory over giants in walled cities. As we recall, because of their unbelief, Israel wandered in the wilderness for over 40 years—until all the unbelievers died off!
More than 40 years later, Caleb, now 85, was not checking out Medicare benefits. Instead, and I’m paraphrasing here, Caleb tells Joshua, “So, here I am at 85, one of only two octogenarians left in Israel. But, with the Lord’s help, I’m still ready to lead the attack to drive out the giants and take the walled cities, so we can finally claim the Promised Land.” Go, old Caleb!
So, my message today is simple. Don’t stop now! Don’t give up the fight. Never give up on your mission. We need all the believing 85-year-old Caleb’s we can recruit.
What is retirement all about?
Quitting was institutionalized by FDR. The first social security payments were issued in January 1940. I suppose that was the birth of the modern day notion of retiring at age 60 or 65. In fact, Fortune, Forbes, and Money magazines will tell you that if you’re really clever you’ll find a way to retire at 50 or even 40.
That wasn’t what I saw in my parents: My dad didn’t step down from his professorship at a large university until he was forced to by law at age 75. So he signed on as a construction supervisor for Habitat for Humanity, continuing well into his 80s.
At age 65 my mom turned her home into the emergency childcare shelter for Denton County, Texas, and over a ten-year period took in more than 200 children. She stopped only when physically disabled, and then only sadly.
At age 65 I launched a new business—smack in the teeth of Amazon’s predatory takeover of the book industry, effectively closing 1,000 or more physical bookstores. Why would I do something suicidal like start again at 65? Simple: I’m on a mission to help people experience the heart of God.
I love what Thomas Edison said,
Our greatest weakness is giving up.
The most certain way to succeed is to try one more time.
And that after Edison’s team reportedly failed more than 1,000 times at inventing the incandescent light. If we stay the course, the 60-somethings among us will have at least another 20 years, and the 30-somethings will have 50 years to finish well.
It was the old apostle Paul, a near-homeless man with no 401K, who said in Acts 20:
I know it won’t be any picnic, . . .
but that matters little. What matters
most to me is to finish what God started:
the job the Master Jesus gave me. . . .
And as saint Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”