The best book I have read recently on preparing for the later years of life is From Strength To Strength by Arthur C. Brooks. (1) I commend it to all who take their life seriously whatever age they may be. The things he proposes may not be new to many of us. The secrets of thriving at whatever age will include things like spirituality, community, and chasing the right goals. I was particularly struck by his suggestion that we define work not by titles or even by activity but by how our work connects who we are to those we serve. He writes:
Visualize yourself at a party. Someone asks, “what do you do?” You answer not with extrinsic stuff like your job title, but with what you know will give you the most purpose, meaning and joy. Involve your spiritual life, your relationships, and the way you serve others. Don’t imagine yourself saying “I’m a lawyer”. Imagine yourself saying instead, “I’m a wife and a mother of three adult kids”. (2)
A few weeks ago I was at a leadership retreat for some Christian doctors and dentists. We were all asked to share what we did. My brothers and sisters were all serving in key positions in health care. When it came to my turn, I blurted out that I was a “friend”. Well, I serve as the chaplain of the CMDF (Christian Medical Dental Fellowship) Singapore. That was my title. But I was, at least what I wanted to do was, to be a friend to my colleagues in health care and to help them grow in friendship with each other. What do I do at this chapter of my life? I am a friend who encourages friendship.
Recently I was having a chat with a friend going through some tough times. Later that evening this person wrote: “Nice to have an older brother in Christ to talk to about the struggles of life.” It gave me joy to read this. I note that I was an older brother. Well, I will be 70 next year. I would have had a bit more life experience, much of which came from reflecting on the mistakes I had made. If I can be a safe friend to process life with, that would give me much joy.
This year I will be teaching a course on spiritual friendship, for a seminary in Malaysia and another in Singapore. I am very aware that one can’t just learn facts about friendship. One has to experience it. Within the limitations of the classes I will try to get to know each of the cohorts better and encourage them to befriend each other.
Life is a journey of being more at home with yourself. We are all on a journey of growing in Christlikeness, but each of us is a unique mix of strengths and weaknesses, personality types (just found out I am Big 5 Extraversion), gifts, talents, burdens, histories, etc. We need to find out who we are in Christ and not as defined by comparisons to others. In this chapter of my life, I am a friend who encourages friendship. What do you do? Who are you?

(1) London, UK: Green Tree, 2023.
(2) From Strength to Strength, 142.