Measuring Our Days: Productivity or Fruitfulness?

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When younger, I ranked my days based on productivity. A great vs. good day was determined by the number of tasks I checked off the list, how successful my meetings were, and whether I accomplished most of what I’d planned.

As I transitioned from full-time teaching to part-time teaching to full retirement, I had to find a new way to measure my days. Unanchored without the usual parameters, I sometimes felt irrelevant, unnecessary, and lost. It’s a process many of us experience as we enter this new stage of life. Today, I’m going to share a resource that’s helping me accept, understand, and dare I say it, savor this new season.

The New Horizons Group at my church, designed for members aged 55 and older, recently offered a study on the book, Aging Faithfully by Alice Fryling. This book is helping me alter my focus on “productivity, busyness, and constant activity.”

In the book, Fryling discusses the differences between productivity and fruitfulness:

“Productivity results from all the tasks I accomplish. Fruitfulness comes from within and includes nontangible ways I relate to others.”

Alice Fryling

Fryling refers to the fruit of the Holy Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—when she goes on to say, “we do not make these things happen in our lives; God does.”

To me, this is a lovely invitation to abide in God and spend time harvesting fruit of the Spirit. It’s an invitation to linger with my grandchildren rather than speed-walk toward the next task. It’s an invitation to learn new meanings of productiveness. The following verse means more now.

Followers of the Lord are blessed with the gift of wisdom as they age and learn to live in God’s ways by being righteous and compassionate to others. They are looked upon by young people for their advice and the power of understanding that they receive from the grace of God (Job 32:7).

God’s been working on me a long time, after all, and now He’s providing the time and capacity to be more fruitful during my slower-paced golden years.

These days I’m learning to measure my days by the insights I glean from listening to my grandkids, the smiles and kindnesses I share with others, and the number of quiet moments I share with God.

I used to say I wanted to age gracefully. Now, I hope to age faithfully because I need God to carry me through.

And I will still be carrying you when you are old. Your hair will turn gray, and I will still carry you. I made you, and I will carry you to safety (Isaiah 46:4).

Find Aging Faithfully at your favorite book retailer. A recommended short read!

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a personal note

Speaking of aging faithfully, I just returned from the beach with my mother-in-law, soon to be 90-years-old. Besides overflowing with wisdom, she also spilled over with joy and praise as she fulfilled a wish to see the beach one last time. I want to be like her when I’m ninety.

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23 Comments

  1. I think the distinction between productivity and fruitfulness is one we all can ponder at any age. We must be faithful to stick close to God so He produces something good from our work. Thank you!

    1. Annie, you make a great point. Fruitfulness is not limited to the later years; we can abide in God throughout our lifetime to produce the fruit of the Spirit. But maybe as we age faithfully, fruitfulness becomes our primary focus as we let go of jobs, raising children, and the many other roles we let define us.

  2. I love what you said. “I used to say I wanted to age gracefully. Now, I hope to age faithfully because I need God to carry me through.” My youngest leaves home next week for six months and I quit my job to work from home. It is so quiet here and those feelings of uselessness tend to creep in. Thank you for this encouraging post.

    1. Jen, as the demands on our time decrease, we do miss them. Yearn for them, even. Then we wade through that liminal space, and, with God’s help, emerge with a greater sense of purpose. That has to be our prayer.

  3. I like that insight-“I used to say I wanted to age gracefully. Now, I hope to age faithfully because I need God to carry me through.” Thank you also for sharing Alice Fryling’s quote.

    1. The book opened my eyes to the differences. Fruitfulness is just another type of productivity. The difference is spiritual fruit must be produced by God.

  4. I know you didn’t write this just for me, but I really needed it. I struggled with retirement–still miss my job. I took on lots of responsibilities in an effort to stay busy and feel useful. But your words, “age faithfully” touched a vulnerable place that needs much prayer and conversation with my Father. Thank you for sharing this message.

    1. Yes, I went through that too Katherine. Still miss my busy days, endless interactions with others, feeling needed, etc. But I am starting to embrace this new space. I have more time to spend with God, to write, and to be a Grammy and a friend.

    2. Sometimes I feel like I’m super busy doing nothing. The idea of aging faithfully is simple yet profound. Funny how we look forward to a slower pace only to find that we have mixed feelings about it when we’re in it. I really needed this Candyce.

      1. I think it about identity. We feel a bit of a loss regarding our identity. But it’s a time to find newfound identity in Christ. And I can’t say I’m not busy. I think I’m just busy doing other things I’ rather spend my time doing.

        Have a fruitful week!

  5. Thanks for sharing from this wonderful book. It does sound like a great resource for those of us transitioning to different days. We can live golden lives in our golden years with the Lord. You mother-in-law does look amazing for 90! Blessings, Candyce.

    1. It’s been helpful, for sure. I love how God places the resources we need for spiritual growth right in front of us. He’ll never forsake us!

  6. Candyce, thank you for this gentle reminder to strive to ‘age faithfully, not just age gracefully.’ And Isaiah 46:4 is a verse I am claiming in this season of life.

    Thank you for your continued work in serving the Lord.

  7. Loved this statement about our spiritual fruit, “we do not make these things happen in our lives; God does.” Our job isn’t to produce fruit but to maintain our connection to the true vine so that He may produce fruit in us. Love this thought ma’am; thank you!

    1. I like the way you worded that J.D. That we “maintain our connection to the Vine” and then let God do the rest. Doesn’t seem too much to ask at all.

  8. So helpful and apropos for my life right now. But I hadn’t realized it. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be thinking on this all day as I’ve been noticing my mind and preparing for retirement to make it actually happen.

    1. Retirement takes some getting used to, but I think most of us find our happy place eventually. At least that’s been true of my friends. Enjoy the transition and find your sweet spot at your own pace.

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