Fulfillment Beyond the Couch
More than five years ago, at an extended family member’s wedding, I encountered a guest who spoke of her plans to take early retirement the following spring. Nothing earth-shattering—except for the fact that she planned to do so at the ripe old age of 52.
Discussing her plans to play with her grandchildren (who, I would note, are in school all day and have multiple plans of their own), she smiled and said: “It’s time.”
It’s time! I thought. It’s time for what? You’re seven years younger than me and you want to go out to pasture and sit around?
Retire to what?
The “retire at 55” ideal that has spread across the nation in recent decades drives me up the wall.
Now, I have nothing against people wanting to shift gears. I can see taking advantage of the opportunity to start a new business, volunteer in their community, or become a missionary now that the daily grind no longer looms.
However, too often the image that comes with retirement is a vision of playing golf, taking exotic vacations, or lounging around in your underwear, as if that constituted a meaningful life.
To which I exclaim: Balderdash! (A word that my wife says automatically ages me.)
It reminds me of the feature I read years ago while we were living in Louisville. The Courier-Journal profiled a woman stepping down from state government after 30-plus years. It quoted numerous people who praised her effectiveness and ability to show others the ropes of working in Frankfort.
The problem, for me, was she was only 54. The next decade could have been her most productive. Yet at the time she could have mentored younger people and provided stability to state government, she quit. How sad.
Step of Courage
The story that rekindled my passion about how we invest our latter years appeared last week on a national news service.
It concerned a pastor who decided to leave his church nine months after telling the congregation that he was battling cancer. His resignation is effective in January.
Guy Sayles said the recent months had added urgency to thoughts he’d had before learning he had multiple myeloma, of making a transition. He said he given much thought to “re-mission” and the role he can play in pursuing God’s dream for the world.
The kicker, though, is that (at the age of 57) this is the first time he has resigned from a job without having another lined up somewhere else.
“So, like Abraham and Sarah, I am setting out in response to what I believe to be God’s call without knowing where I am going,” Sayles said. “I trust, as I have said to you across these years, that God will give me everything I need to live the life God is calling me to live.”
To that, I add a hearty: Amen!
I see a huge difference between what this pastor is doing and those who want to head for the sidelines in their 50s to play with their grandkids or hit the golf course. I don’t detect in his words a desire to lounge around, but to pursue his next step in fulfilling God’s mission for his time on earth.
Such plans reflect the legacy of Moses, who started his greatest venture in life at the age of 80. It’s a bit tough to imagine him telling God, “Gee, Lord, I can’t lead Israel to freedom. I’ve got a tee time at 1:30.”