This morning I threw away a can of pineapple juice and a bottle of Ventolin Expectorant. They're both way past their shelf life or "Best before" date.
Shelf life . . . I've been deeply thinking about it the last few days as I begin to write my next book on, guess what, retirement.
The topic is not something I thought of (although I should have). When I asked Yna, Publications Director of OMFLit, what I might write about next, she said it crisp and clear, “Retirement.”
By now, I should be more than qualified to write about this. I have been out of the workplace for a good number of years—and I have been hanging out with friends who are likewise far from the maddening crowd.
But as I mull over retirement, I am surprised why I keep going back to shelf life. Which isn't a very good metaphor, really. Depressing, in fact. Shelf life is for perishable goods. Beyond their expiry date, these goods are no longer suitable for “sale, use, or consumption.”
Shelf life, as you and I know it, is the manufacturer's recommendation of time that products can be stored, during which their quality still remain acceptable. After that, they are thrown into the dustbin and oblivion.
I think of shelf life because the law and corporations dictate a certain age for people to retire. The assumption is that, past that age, people are no longer as productive as they once were.
And after retirement, people's status in society takes a total change. Then there are those who put a cap to their working life, “By age 40, I should be retired.” There are still others who can't wait to retire because what they've been doing for years has lost its luster.
But as I read my Bible, I come across people who, way past their shelf life or retirement age today, did mighty things for God.
Moses and Aaron. They were chosen to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage at the ages of 80 and 83.
Joshua. He was assigned to lead the conquest of the Promised Land during the last thirty years of his life; he died at age 110.
Daniel. He served God for over 70 years! He was well over 80 when he was thrown into the lion's den.
Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. She was an old lady when she was serving the temple and gave birth to John.
Paul. He aged before our eyes in the New Testament, continuing his work without let up till he was old and gray.
Psalms 92:12-15 reads, “The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the LORD is upright . . .”
Man's shelf life. It can be dictated by corporations, laws, or the government. But one's real shelf life—when he can still bear fruits, full of sap and green—can only be determined by the great Manufacturer who made us all.
Our real expiry date has nothing to do with age, experience, expertise, or status. It has to do with grace, only grace.