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Grandparenting – Feeling Inspired or Expired?

What word best describes how you feel about being a grandparent—inspired or expired?

We’re used to everything having an expiration date. Does this apply to people too?

A study by the Pew Research Center states, “For most people, middle age is the most demanding and stressful time of life.”1 Does that fact surprise you? It also happens to be the season we become grandparents.

Just when we think life should be getting easier, we are confronted by a growing number of hard realities. For example, “Divorce rates for those fifty and over have more than doubled over the last two decades, rising to the highest level on record.”2 Researchers have coined a phrase to describe the breakup of these long-term marriages—gray divorce.

Other hard realities include regrets and disappointments, financial stresses, health issues, struggles with adult children, demands of caring for aging parents and a loss of faith.

Dealing with life’s hardships is nothing new. Past generations have done that. What’s unique today is the increased severity of our problems due to unprecedented societal breakdown and technological change. As a result, those of us in the midlife (and beyond) season are at a high risk of making poor decisions trying to cope with the pressure and then derail ourselves.

Grappling with these hard realities often leads to thinking our best years are now behind us; that we failed to achieve our dreams; that we weren’t successful. As a result, we feel disqualified from having the spiritual authority to speak into the lives of our children and grandchildren.

All which remains is to add an “expired” sticker on our life and pull ourselves off the shelf.

If you’re feeling this way, don’t apply that sticker! It would be a great mistake.

There is a paradox here. The process of wrestling with the hard realities, while gripping tightly to the Lord to pull you through, reveals your true heart and character. It doesn’t disqualify you. It qualifies you! The wisdom and spiritual depth you have acquired will greatly benefit your grandchildren and adult children.

In fact, this demanding season of life represents your years of greatest influence! This may seem hard to believe, but it’s true!

Like a rock thrown into a pond, the circles of your influence can ripple out across multiple generations of your family. It could easily carry to your great, great, great grandchildren!

Here are five suggestions for removing the “expired” label and leading an “inspired” life of influence for the Lord:

  1. Study the biblical accounts to see how God used people in their later years. See Abraham (Gen. 17:15-19), Sarah (Gen. 17:15-19), Moses (Ex. 7:1-7), Aaron (Ex. 7:1-7), Caleb (Josh. 14:10-13), Jehoiada (2 Chron. 24:15-16), Simeon (Luke 2:25-35) Anna (Luke 2:36-37).
  2. See yourself as God’s chosen and influential servant. See John 15:8, 16; Col. 4:17; 2 Tim. 4:7-8. What insights can you apply to yourself from these verses and the lives of the people mentioned above?
  3. Connect creatively with your grandchildren. There is something special about a child’s relationship to their grandparent. Their heart is open to you. Have fun in coming up with unique ways to build their faith and enjoy activities together. What about creating a video to share your life’s story to pass on as a legacy? Imagine how your great, great, great grandchildren will watch it!
  4. Find positive ways to connect with your adult children. In many cases, there are relational gaps with our adult children. Taking thoughtful initiative to strengthen your relationship is worth it while you allow God to do His work on a heart level.
  5. Be an influencer for the Lord in every situation. We typically underestimate the influence of our life on others. Now is the time to think differently about that!

There are so many people who need to pull off the “expired” sticker they are wearing and replace it with an “inspired” one. Could God be reminding you about the expanded influence of your life?

1 D’Vera Cohn and Paul Taylor, “Baby Boomers Approach 65—Glumly,” PewSocialTrends.Org, December 20, 2010, www.pewsocialtrends. org/2010/12/20/baby-boomers-approach-65-glumly.

2 Susan Gregory Thomas, “The Gray Divorcés,” Wall Street Journal, March 3, 2012, http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052970203753704577255230471480276.

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