There is a question I cannot get out of my mind. I have been thinking…
I have never retired from my job before, and I probably won’t for some time (Lord willing), so it may seem a little strange that I am writing about it. But I am a pastor to many retirees, and have seen and heard a lot. As our upcoming Journey to 100 online conference approaches, I want to share a few of the lessons I have observed along the way and make a recommendation at the end.
First, I have learned how difficult retirement can be for many. Our culture promotes a lot of financial and personal retirement goals: Save $1,000,000 by 55! Plan your next getaway this winter! and other things like that. But rarely do folks tell you how significant a life change retirement truly is.
In fact, there are some who say retirement is one of the most jarring life stage changes, second only perhaps to the college to workplace transition. Retirement is not as easy as the commercials make it out to be.
Many, having worked for decades, find that one of their primary identity markers or “big whys” for getting out of bed in the morning is conspicuously absent after the retirement party. As a pastor, I have seen many men and women struggle in the first few years of retirement, not having accounted for this shift. Many find that having hit their “retirement goals,” they are more aimless than ever.
Second, I have learned that retirement, especially as it is defined by our modern society, has absolutely no biblical basis. The Scriptures are full of language about calling, assignment, service, and work, all as a means of worship to God and love for neighbor. Never will you find a verse that says, “And when you turn 65, all of that stops, and you can do whatever you want with your time and money.” While no one is generally surprised by this observation, I have noticed precious few believers account for it as they plan for their retirement. Instead, I see a strong focus on the “three big g’s”: golf, grandkids, and getaways. As amazing and good as those things are (seriously!), is that all God has in mind for our post-work years?
Is retirement just the inevitable final check box when the bank account and the birthdays hit the predetermined numbers? I, for one, hope not. So what should we focus on as believers who are approaching retirement? What would new kingdom oriented retirement goals look like in our lives?
I don’t have all the answers here, but a few recent conversations give me hope. One friend and congregant, after decades in the workplace, stepped away from paid work. As he and I processed that change, I mentioned the “r” word. He furrowed his brow and shook his head. He said, “I don’t talk about retiring. I talk about re-firing. What else does God have in store for me now?” Listen, I’m not one for cheesy turns of phrase, but I love this language, and especially the attitude behind it. Since then, this individual has consistently consulted with organizations, mentored young leaders (like me), and volunteered with local and global ministries for the common good, all in his “retirement years.” Re-firing indeed!
I am increasingly convinced that one of the real tragedies of our day is the latent talent, energy, expertise, and time of our retired brothers and sisters that has been sitting on the sidelines. I don’t say that in judgment. I just want to imagine the possibilities! God is not done with us when our paychecks start coming from Social Security. I know God feels that way as another recent conversation with a congregant had him recounting to me that God said to him, “It’s time to get off your behind and serve in your community.” This was someone who already gave of his time, talent, and treasure. But God was ready for more!
Are you ready for more?
When is the last time you asked God to reveal what He has in store for you next? Where do your passion, your training and expertise, and the needs of our community and world align?
Here’s my recommendation: be part of our Journey to 100 conversation on Saturday, November 7. I am serious when I say that if more people in the church caught a vision for what God can do with those “retirement years,” we would be blown away by the energy, vitality, ideas, and service it would unleash.
Keep up the good work, church. And I’ll see you at Journey to 100.