Sunrises and Sunsets of Family
There are two brief moments in the 24 hour cycle of our planet that give us a sneak peek at the bigger story of our lives. No matter where you are in the world, if you have access to the drama going on outside at the right time, you can’t miss them.
Obviously, if you’ve read the title of this post, you know I’m referring to the dawn and the dusk. They just happen to be my two favorite times of the day. They always have been. Even as a kid stirring early to make dad’s coffee for him before he headed out to work, I loved all the anticipation that came with the introduction of a new day… of nature coming out of its shroud of darkness… of neighbors deciding it’s time to wake up.
And I loved it when the sun would take its eight minute curtain call at the end of the day. The main reason I loved it was because it was the only time it actually let me stare at it without hurting my eyes. It took me an astronomy class to figure out that the reason I could stare at it was because it had already disappeared over the horizon. The eight minutes was the time it took its diminishing rays to make their 93 million mile journey from where it once was to where I was presently standing. My mother’s standard expectation of me typically ramped up in my head during this time: “Make sure you’re home before dark.”
Most people indeed sleep through the one and either work or commute through the other. Unless you’re deliberate, it’s easy for them to slip by unnoticed. Too bad; because among other things, they’re metaphors. They’re daily reminders of the journey we’re all on.
Children arrive much like a fresh new day—full of potential, banking on hope, and at the mercy of the people in charge of what will transpire once their life is high in its arch across time. These children’s imaginations, curiosity, and sense of wonder make their debut at peak levels. We who live trapped in a constant state of midday need to pay attention to these wonderful gifts of life’s dawn. We hold in our hands so much of how their ultimate days will be lived out. It behooves us to let them savor their brief time in the magical state of brand new. Sooner than any child can anticipate, the stark brightness of daylight will be part of a prolonged present tense.
Then comes dusk. We tend to think it represents the end of a day. But that’s not actually true. There’s still a lot of living left to do, just not basking in the sunshine. I want to suggest to any and all of you taking a moment to read my musings that the dusk comes sooner in the life cycle than most people assume. I don’t believe that dusk is when we retire or when we get so old that facing the daylight is just too demanding. I think the dusk of our lives starts around our 40th birthday. We’ve been living our lives at our fastest speeds and trying to hit our highest potentials. But now we have family, titles, and responsibilities. There are a lot of other forces and people that get to outline what is expected of us. Whether we prefer it or not, this time demands that we live more methodically and make choices more deliberately. There’s much of life yet to be lived, but with far more of a sense of earnestness.
In his book Half Time, Bob Buford says that the typical man lives the first forty years of his life pursuing success and the next forty years of his life pursuing significance. This is what I’m talking about. This is why the dusk of our lives isn’t marking the end as much as transitioning us more into some of the most influential time of our lives.
The dawn of youth lasts about 20 years. The dusk of adulthood has about the same shelf life. But both play a huge role in defining the midday and nighttime of our overall lives—how well we’ll weather the one and leverage the other. I’d like to suggest that in our roll as parents and grandparents we have a responsibility to steward the dawn of our children’s lives in such a way that we better set them up to capture the fast and furious energy that their productive years require. Let me suggest one overall strategy with three specific goals.
Introduce them to a world within your home that is defined by God’s truth and tempered by His tender heart of grace. And use this precious opportunity on the front side of their brand new life to meet their three strongest and driving needs so sufficiently, that they serve as anchor tenants within their resolve as they pick up the breakneck speed of adult life. These three needs are the need for security, significance, and strength to take on life. There’s a specific way truth-defined and grace-tempered parents/grandparents can easily meet these needs. Just use every word and action toward them during this time as an opportunity to build into them:
- A secure love
- A significant purpose
- A strong hope
The dusk of our lives is filled with the things we’ve learned and done. If we’ve paid even basic attention to the work of God up to that point in our lives, then this is the time where we have the chance to make our biggest impact. This is when we can take the security we’ve experienced in Christ, the significance we’ve been given in Christ, and the strength we’ve enjoyed in Christ and turn them into a chance to make an eternal difference with the time we have left. By this time we should know what a fraud the success-oriented lifestyle truly is. The dusk of our lives is tailor-made to take the priority of living a truly great life into the ionosphere. This is when we want a passionate love for Jesus Christ that shows itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others to be intuitive—deeply imbedded into the core of our second nature. This “truly great” life commitment has some wonderful qualities that, by this time in our life journey, have a chance to be our most influential calling cards:
- A humble heart
- A grateful heart
- A generous heart
- A servant’s heart
Sunrise, sunsets, quickly go the years. But with both of them come opportunity, promise, and responsibility. Let’s do our best not to sleep through the one or be too busy to enjoy the other.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. - Psalm 90:12