“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days." Ephesians 5:16 (NLT)
Mom often told me, “Cheryl, none of us came here to stay always.” It used to bother me when she said that because I could not even imagine living life without her and Dad. Losing them was one of my biggest fears for as far back as I can remember. Now I stand on the other side of that fear becoming reality, and my husband, Kevin, and I find ourselves around the same age my parents were when we first met. How did we get here? It seems like the years have flown, and it is near unbelievable to me that we could have reached "mid-life" so quickly.
Now in our 50’s and married for nearly 33 years, Kevin and I approach minimizing from a middle-aged perspective. The viewpoint and priorities we share today are vastly different from when we began our life together, and while I wish we had known then what we know now, I will be eternally grateful we learned early enough to pass on these truths to our son, Zach.
It is far better to not accumulate in the first place.
About a year and a half after Kevin and I were married, my sister and her husband came to visit us from out of town, and upon seeing our apartment and possessions, my brother-in-law commented that it took most couples years to accumulate the amount of stuff we already had after only being married for a short time. At the time, his words felt like a compliment. Now, I realize we were setting a precedent that would cause remorse and frustration for us later. I once heard someone say that we spend the first years of married life accumulating and the next stage trying to get rid of what we have accumulated. I find a lot of truth in that statement and tip my hat to young singles and newly married couples who have already adopted a minimalist lifestyle. "And He (Jesus) said unto them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.'" Luke 12:15
Mortality is common to us all.
Nothing made me realize that more than standing by the bedsides of both of my dying parents. They were resilient and had always bounced back from their many health struggles, but death finally came, despite their strong determination to live. As I mourned in the aftermath of losing them, I realized I, too, will one day leave this world, and just as I entered it with nothing, so I will leave. Amassing excessive possessions proves to have been a futile endeavor in the end. "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." I Timothy 6:7
There is no time like the present.
As a middle-aged couple, we are starting to see some of the progressing health issues our parents struggled with, and along with that comes the realization that time to do the things we have dreamed of is limited, open windows of opportunity won’t stay that way forever, and sometimes there is no second chance. When presented with the option of doing something we love and enjoy, we are much more likely to seize upon those opportunities now and not put off until tomorrow what we can cherish together today. The wisdom in choosing experiences over things has never been clearer to us. "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." Colossians 4:5
The burden of debt is not worth what it costs.
There is a line in Bob Seger’s song, “Against the Wind,” that says, “I was living to run and running to live, never worried about paying or even how much I owed.” During the years we were racking up credit cards and other types of debt, we honestly did not know the total amount of our indebtedness. All we knew is we were living life in extreme bondage to those we owed money to, and the toll it was taking on us to keep things current and our excellent credit rating intact intensified as we got older. It is a lot easier to live that way when you are young and strong and running against the wind than it is when you find yourself in the middle stage of life, with less time, health, and energy. We are more patient now and have learned that nothing is worth being indebted to acquire. "The borrower is servant to the lender." Proverbs 22:7
Some things are too heavy to carry.
When we were young, we didn’t pay attention to how heavy a piece of furniture was when we bought it. Now, the weight of something is the most important factor we consider when making a purchase. I used to carry around a ton of emotional baggage, worry about what people said and thought, and was so concerned with pleasing others I ran myself ragged. Through the hard realities of aging and an extremely painful ulcer, I have come to understand that carrying that kind of weight is every bit as detrimental as lifting a cumbersome piece of furniture. I simply cannot do it anymore, so I had to let it go. "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1
What we hold onto affects someone other than ourselves.
When we began accumulating possessions, there were only two of us. Now, there are three, and as Kevin and I make minimizing decisions, our son, Zach, is front and center in our minds. We are becoming steadily more concerned about how the things we are keeping will affect him after we are gone. Do we want to leave him with precious memories or laden with stuff? Our stuff. Stuff that he may have no interest in or even understand why we kept. Our concern for him often influences our minimizing decisions and lends a confirming measure of common sense. "Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me." Ecclesiastes 2:18
As we get older, our physical abilities sometimes restrict us from activities we used to enjoy. When this happens, it is counterproductive to hold onto things we can no longer use when selling them may contribute to something that is important to us now, in this season. Recently, unexpected expenses arose regarding our next book around the same time Kevin began considering selling the fishing equipment he has been collecting for years. It was a hard decision for him—many memories were attached, and my heart broke for him when he told me he was going to sell everything and apply the money toward our book expenses. But it just made sense to him—he no longer does any fishing or has easy access to a good fishing spot, and the book is very close to all three of our hearts. It all sold immediately, and our problem was solved. "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19
Though middle age is a challenging phase in life’s journey, it provides the opportunity to make necessary adjustments, live out the lessons we have learned, and pass the insight on to those who walk behind us.