Knowing your life stage enables you to ride the kairos wave that is before you right now. It helps you avoid trying to ride a wave that has gone by or one that is still on the horizon. Let’s not try to live as if we have an empty nest until the kids are gone; and once they’ve left home, let’s not try to keep rearing them.
Identify your current stage so you can apply rhythm strategies to your present life, and then identify the next stage you will likely enter. You might even be in the midst of a passage between stages, as I am (moving from the child-rearing years to an empty nest).
Three major elements will help you identify your current life stage: your biological age, family relationships, and major multi-year phases. Some of these stages may begin with a crisis.
First, how old are you? It makes a difference whether you are reading this book as a nineteen-year-old, a forty-nine-year-old, or a sixty-nine-year-old—three very different life stages. Biologically, are you in puberty, in child-bearing years, or past menopause? Are you at the peak of fitness and strength or in the time of physical decline?
Second, identify your family relationships. Are you single, never married? married? divorced? remarried? Are you pregnant? Do you have children? stepchildren? grandchildren? Are your children at home, or do you have an empty nest? Have they left and boomeranged back? Are you caring for aging parents, or are your parents still caring for you? Usually, having a baby, getting married, or getting divorced shifts you into a new stage of life.
Third, are you in a new, multi-year phase? An example might be a move to a new place that creates a geographic shift and may take you to a new stage.
Changes at work can move you to a new stage, especially if it is a change to a new career in a different field, or from being employed by a company to being self-employed. Changes in service or education can usher in a new stage of life. Entering active military duty or starting studies as a full-time student will create a new stage of life.
Sometimes a health crisis will generate a new life stage. Losing a significant amount of weight can transform you into a new person. If you suffer a major disability, you may enter a new stage of limited mobility. If you find out you have cancer or AIDS, you enter a new stage of life, as does your primary caregiver.
Our youngest child will graduate from high school in 2009. By 2013, if he’s on track, he should be finishing college. So, over the next several years, my wife and I will move into entirely new stages of life—from parents with kids at home to parents with kids at college to parents with a truly empty nest. Our current stage of raising teenagers, which started in 1997, will end in 2010 when the youngest turns twenty.
When you know what “time” it is in your life, you have a basis for figuring out how to live well in that unique time of life. The three kairos rhythm strategies show you how to live well in each different stage of life.
Understanding the two basic kinds of kairos rhythms—personal seasons and life stages—gives us a foundation for learning how to live our lives in rhythm. In the next few chapters, we will explore how to release false expectations that don’t fit your current rhythm, seize unique opportunities in your current kairos seasons, and anticipate what lies ahead in seasons and stages to come.
Once you can identify the waves, you can discover how to ride them well. Using the three kairos rhythm strategies, you coast with peace by releasing false expectations that don’t fit your current rhythm, you ride with fulfillment by seizing unique opportunities this kairos season offers you, and you find hope in anticipating the waves that still lie ahead of you.