Modeling Midlife for Others and Defining Our Legacy
by Dawn Barton
I want to leave a huge legacy. And I’m not talking about some big fat pile of cash, because let’s be very clear, much to the dismay of my children, I intend to spend every last dime prior to my death. Probably on throw pillows. The legacy I want to leave far surpasses that of finances or properties or antique dishes. I want to leave one that will lift other women, who will in turn lift even more women, and I don’t want to create that legacy alone.
Together I want us to rewrite the way women think of life after the midlife point. I believe WE can redraft the script on what it is to fully live during our second half of life. Our legacies, our stories and our loves can cause beautiful, big ripple effects as far as the eyes can see. It’ll be like thousands upon thousands of rocks were thrown into glasslike water and one by one, they ignite the widening circles of a ripple, which only get larger and larger the farther away they move from the stone’s moment of impact. And as each one’s circles expand and devour more of the water’s space, they begin to bump into the outer edges of another woman’s glorious ripples and they all grow and grow until suddenly, that once-calm glassy water is wild with activity and motion.
If we’re not dead, God is not done with us.
This is not our time to stop being wild participants of life and just become mere spectators. In fact, I believe exactly the opposite: it’s time for us to lead. Yes, lead. Get out there and model for the younger generations what it means to be vibrant women in the second half, what it means to age as God intended. We need to speak up and share our wisdom and help to love and guide those coming behind us.
Why have we chosen this time to be more pulled back and quieter than before? We have the most experience, and yet we are handing the microphone to the people with the least experience. Worse than that, we’re not listening to each other, to the voices of our own generation, when we have more to offer each other than ever before. That makes no sense at all.
When did we cross that invisible line of midlife and start using our voices less and less? We were in that center ring for a while, microphone in our hands, and then one day we left the ring. Not permanently of course; “We’ll be right back,” we said. We’re just going to go have a baby real quick, or get married, or spend a few more years in this mediocre job because the commute is great. The next thing we knew, we were a little hesitant to get back in that ring. Instead, we took a seat on the fifth row and then the twelfth, and one day we looked around and realized that we’d gone from being in the middle of the ring to standing against the very back wall of the audience section. What happened?
I’ll tell you what happened: somewhere in those moments of your kids vomiting red Kool-Aid on your white sofas and trying to fit your slightly expanding hips into two-sizes-too-small shapewear, you started telling yourself the world didn’t want to hear from you. You handed the bullhorn over to a young woman who doesn’t know the difference between a freckle and an age spot, and now she’s telling us we should all wear leggings as pants with short tops. Houston, we have a problem.
God doesn’t give us years of experiences and lessons for us to be silent about them. It is the exact opposite of what He calls us to do. The Bible says, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old” (Job 12:12). Just to be clear, we are the proverbial “aged” here. That’s US! He is saying that we are wise, so why would He want us to be the most silent? He doesn’t. This, right now, this is the most important time to insert ourselves into opportunities to speak up and lead— at church, in teaching, at work, in community, life groups, friendships, everywhere. We are to use the lessons of our past to share with others.
The world needs your passion, your ideas, your tenacity and your spark. All of it is YOUR legacy and the start of your own giant ripple effect. But you must decide what your legacy is going to be; no one can decide that for you. All I am here to do is tell you that we need you to create yours, to speak up and be on purpose about what you put back into the world right now.
How about you? As you consider what impact your life is having and will continue to have, remember that legacies and ripple effects can happen in just one small moment or from a lifetime—God uses them both. Perhaps that ripple effect begins with moments with your grandchildren where you whisper in their ears that they are “a mighty child of God.” Maybe it’s in moments with young coworkers, where you tell them, “You are so gifted, and this world is better for it.” Do you know how few times humans have these things spoken over them? Trust me, words create mighty ripple effects.
I pray each of ours will be legacies of action and love. From this day forward, may we be on purpose in all our choices, from our words to our connections to our deeds. Let’s make sure our voices are heard and our strengths are in use.
Dawn Barton left a thirty-year career in sales marketing to follow a calling and write. Her first book, the bestselling Laughing Through the Ugly Cry, won the ECPA Christian Book Award for New Author of the Year. Her new book, Midlife Battle Cry, urges women to redefine the mighty second half.