My 30-year high school reunion happens this month about 1100 miles from where I live and at a time when getting our second son off to college precludes even the consideration of attending. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about how 30 years have passed since I graduated from Del Campo High School in 1981.
In fact, that preoccupation motivated me to get together with a core group of friends from high school earlier this summer–buddies I had played football and basketball with for four years, tromped around the California wilderness with, skied together, floated down the American River, logged the countless hours together in English and math and social studies classes, and, well, done our best to stay out of serious trouble. What is apparent to me–and I heard it behind the conversations we had together, and in the Facebook exchanges as the reunion approaches–is this: we believe our best days are still before us.
That hope may actually be rooted in reality. As we slow down physically (just a little), there’s a lot of research and insightful writing that tells us the years from our late 40’s into our 70’s offer the greatest opportunities to experience significance in our lives. One author who impacted me greatly 15 years ago, Dr. Bobby Clinton, studied the lives of leaders, analyzing how many “finished well” in life, and laying out a process for out to finish well in life. He has described this as “convergence,” a that time when a person’s experiences, gift-mix, talents, temperament, and skills are leveraged for impact–for a productive and fruitful season of life. Clinton describes this as a time when the person’s role “not only frees [him or her] from ministry for which there is no gift, but it also enhances and uses the best [they have] to offer.” He goes on to say soberly, “Not many leaders experience convergence.”
In about 60 days–barring any unforeseen obstacles–the book “The 210 Project: Discover Your Place in God’s Story” will come out. In it, my two colleagues (and friends) Don Ankenbrandt and Frank Johnson, and I lay out a discussion and process to help people move into the center of what they were created to be and do in life. It’s our humble effort to capture in a book and through an online process of assessments and engaging discussions what we have committed the past 20 or so years doing–namely helping people find their place in God’s story. And perhaps most importantly, to help people (including ourselves!) know how to finish well in life.
Which brings to mind a quote I have always loved by Frederick Buechner–particularly its simple yet surprising clarity:
“The place God calls you is where your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet.”
I think Buechner is saying this: You and I have been designed to find meaning, purpose, and significance in walking out the good works that God has already given us to do. What the 210 Project does is to affirm the deep truth that takes some of us a lifetime to discover: we were made to give our lives away. We find joy when we help others at their point of need. We find significance in helping a person who is hungry, or lonely, or hurting, or confused, or imprisoned, or discouraged…you get the picture. We were made to make a difference.
Our part? To walk straight into the adventure of giving our lives away where they are needed most. And to do that with courage and determination, with an openness to change, to be changed, and to see God change the world around us…sometimes even through us. It is the wonder and mystery of Ephesians 2:10 from which the book derives its name, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
So, as I walked the golf course with my high school buddies last month, memories of high school merging with these renewed pictures of who we have all grown up to be, I see the gift each of these men have to offer to others–the gift they offer to me without even knowing it, of who they are, the unique perspective they have on life, and the story their lives tell from what they have experienced. And, I also see the possibility of Buechner’s simple but clarifying statement working out in their lives, as I work it out in my own: to find deep gladness in giving my life away where it’s needed the most.
Clinton, Robert (1988). The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development (p. 32). NavPress. Kindle Edition.