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Changing seasons, enduring talents

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

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Summer is packing its bags. Fall is on the doorstep. Here in New England we know what's to come - crisper air, the color-drenched beauty of turning leaves, and, no doubt, thicker clothing. The change of seasons rarely catches anyone here off guard.

If only that were so when it comes to a change of seasons in a career.

Friends of mine were discussing the difficulty some people have as they approach retirement, worried they will feel they lack purpose once they leave their jobs. Someone interrupted: "But I know people who are feeling marginalized right now, even useless, and they have plenty of working years ahead of them. They just no longer feel needed."

An unexpected cold front.

The work we do devours most of our waking day, most of our week, and sometimes too much of our weekends. An enormous part of living happens on the job, so much so that we allow our work not only to define what we do, but who we are - a computer-game designer, a loan officer, a plumber, a real estate agent. If there's a significant change in circumstances - a plant closes or a job is phased out - the uncertainty can take us by surprise, and hit hard. It's no longer about the uprooting of a livelihood, but of a life.

A friend of mine left his full-time job in order to become a consultant. For the first year things went smoothly, but then he hit lean times. There wasn't enough income to pay the bills, and his house eventually went into foreclosure. The money problems were bad enough, but he loved this line of work and had years of experience in it, and now it was going nowhere. He was desperate.

The light shines

But dark times can be the point at which an illuminating idea stands out vividly and comes to the rescue. He rediscovered a favorite Bible passage: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). No variableness.

He thought of his talents as some of those perfect God-given gifts, and he thought that there is no variableness in their divine source - no fluctuating relevancy, no diminishing value. Nothing about his talents and their purposefulness was accidental. Sure, circumstances might vary, like that first autumn breeze that clears out the heat of summer. But the talents deep within, and the conviction that they need to be expressed, come from the highest intelligence, from God, the Giver of eternal life. They don't disappear in a gust of changing circumstances.

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