A few years ago, my husband and I moved to a little mountain town in the country, well-known for its apples. So of course, we had to plant our own little orchard. However, we live on a hill riddled with big rocks. Eagerly watching the YouTube videos instructing us on the matter of tree planting pretty much set us up for some major disappointment. Planting trees was no easy job!
I’m pretty sure the orchard endeavor took some good years out of our backs and knees. And while I wondered what in the world I’d gotten us into, I came a across an obscure story online about someone farther along in years than we are…who also started an orchard.
I wish I could find the link to his story now, but as I remember it, it was back during the homesteading years, when staking your claim was for strong men and young families. In was in this time that a man over 70 years old also wanted a stake in the excitement. He built his homestead and planted apples and peaches. Everyone told him he wouldn’t live long enough to see any real benefit from his efforts. They said his labors were pointless; he was too old to work this hard.
But the man celebrated over 25 more birthdays and became quite a successful orchardist in the community. That orchard became one of his proudest accomplishments.
We live in such a youth-driven culture that it’s easy to wonder if adventure, calling, and purpose is only found in our fleeting twenties or thirties, and then just evaporates.
My husband is a pastor, and the bulk of our congregation is in their retirement years. While many of them are youthful and newly-retired, there can sometimes be a sense that these years don’t hold the same need for growth. Or, that the purpose of one’s autumn season is more for rest and pleasure than bearing fruit and fulfilling a calling.
Yet, there are also those who are all the more passionate about using their newly-found freedoms to serve the Lord. I especially cherish the examples of those I’ve watched dig more deeply into the Lord’s Word and work in their senior years.
The Bible offers examples of thriving, fruitful seniors.
To her shock and near disbelief, Sarah saw the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise in her old age. (Genesis 18:11-18)
Jesus’ birth was surrounded by seasoned individuals who played important pieces in the story: Elizabeth encouraged Mary by confirming the Lord’s word (Luke 1:39-45). Simeon and Anna also proclaimed and confirmed God’s word to Mary (Luke 2:25-38).
These are just a handful of people! Scripture is overflowing with examples that buck our preconceived notions about purpose/potential resting only with the young.
In fact, the delight of our Father is to entrust great tasks to those we would least expect.
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. – 1 Corinthians 1:26-29
While you consider how the Lord might be calling you to deeper places in His word and work, consider also how many generations before and after you have (or will) experience the privilege of retirement.
The notion of retirement is actually exceptionally rare when we consider our lives with the wide-angle lens of history and across different cultures. If God has providentially set you in a situation where you are enjoying retirement, He gave it to you for a special purpose.
Autumn is a season for harvest, but like Spring, it is also a planting season.
And some people say that trees planted in autumn do even better than the trees planted in Spring.
Like the senior orchardist, the Lord has work for you! And if you press into Him, this might be the most fruitful, purposeful season of your life.
The righteous man will flourish like the palm tree, He will grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Planted in the house of the Lord, They will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green. – Psalm 92:12-14
May all of our lives flourish in the courts of our God and still yield fruit in our old age!
April Motl is a pastor’s wife, homeschool mom, and women’s ministry director. When she’s not waist-deep in the joys and jobs of motherhood, she writes and teaches for women. You can find more encouraging resources from April here and here.