For some, or many, of us, we have been taught “scarcity thinking” rather than “abundance thinking.” Scarcity thinking teaches us that we never have enough and that we are never enough. Have you ever heard or said, “I don’t have enough time,” “I don’t have enough money,” “I’m not good enough” or “I am not thin enough”? Those statements come from scarcity thinking. Scarcity thinking constrains what God’s calling for our life. It hinders our imagination, creativity, and our identity as a child of God. It also stops us from living a joyous and generous life.
Some time ago, a retired business executive stopped in my office. He was visiting from out-of-state and was feeling depressed. Part of his depression, he admitted was that he didn’t feel generous with his time or his money. And he confessed, he was sacred to give any of it away. He was searching. He was searching for a connection with God, with other people, and for a new purpose in life. This has become a familiar story for many. It is an example of how scarcity thinking works in our lives.
In April, I took a continuing education course that addressed some of these issues. The class was called “From Age-ing to Sage-ing.” During our younger years, we are so busy with work and raising a family that our whole identity and lives focus around those two things. And then being an “Empty Nester” and “Retirement” just seem to happen. We are more likely to prepare for our financial security in retirement than we prepare ourselves for an identity and spiritual shift that takes place in our lives during retirement. Along with retirement comes a fear that as health and productivity declines, that one will be sent to wither away in an “Old Folks Home.”
“From Age-ing to Sage-ing” is a shift in our thinking. It goes from fear and scarcity thinking to one of abundance thinking and living into our identity as a child of God. It means making a shift from “elderly” to “elder.” When we make this shift, we connect with others especially with children and youth; we become more generous and creative; we are more attuned with nature; and our connectedness with God grows. “When we don’t have to devote a large percentage of our time in fulfilling social obligations and meeting other people’s expectations, we can unleash these energies and harness them for self-awareness, spiritual development, and creativity” (Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and Ronald S. Miller, “From Age-ing to Sage-ing: A Revolutionary Approach to Growing Older,” 34).
There are a few things that all of us can do, regardless of our age, to shift our thinking and begin to live into God’s calling for our lives:
- Self-reflection (reflecting on our past successes, blessings, disappointments and confessions)
- Be in nature (garden, hike, kayak, bike, walk the dog, do something outside)
- Volunteer and mentor (especially with youth)
- Life-long Learning (take an art class, attend a Bible study, take an Osher Lifelong Learning Institute class, go on a spiritual retreat)
- Be silent, pray, meditate, do yoga, or prayer walking
- Be creative (write, bead, draw, laugh, play, go on a date night)
- Listen, show compassion and empathy, give generously, forgive