This Blog is a guest blog written by: Tom Trebisky
Retirement means many things to different people. Some criticize it, probably thinking that it means dropping out of life and doing nothing. To me it is one of the greatest opportunities of life, and above all else: freedom. Freedom itself is a glorious opportunity; but like any opportunity, it can either be used well or wasted.
As our congregation ages, more and more of us enter the phase of life known as retirement age. Like any major life change, this transition needs to be handled well. Every big life transition can be either a chance to get derailed, or a time to do something new for God. Handled well, retirement can be a time of great blessing and fruitfulness. It is certainly a time to be seeking for and alert to God's direction.
A number of years ago I found myself riding a ski lift and began a conversation with the woman who rode alongside me. She told me she had retired at age 45. I told her she was very lucky, and she rebuked me.
"No! I'm not lucky,” she said. “I planned and worked hard and now here I am doing exactly what I want to be doing." Amen, right on, I thought.
I retired about four years ago, and was allowed to continue working part time. I did not (and do not) hate my job, and retirement was not an escape from some dreaded way of life. What it was, was freedom and opportunity. One of the first things it allowed me to do was to get serious about hunting for a new home -- a hunt which bore fruit and has resulted in great blessing. It has also allowed me to engage in more outdoor activities (hiking, mountain climbing, underground exploring, and photography) as well as to finish projects and pursue hobbies which I had pushed to the side.
I have met people who tell me, "I am never going to retire!" I always find this a little puzzling. There certainly are those who love their jobs above all else, and for whom retiring would be a misfortune. I know of one fellow who retired from the University of Arizona who, finding that he didn't know what to do with himself, returned to work at an entry level position. He is well known and widely respected.
Some people cannot retire due to financial misfortune or some disaster in life. Some cannot retire because they simply failed to plan for retirement. To any young people reading this, I say: Plan! It is not as far off as you think! Even if you want to work forever, most employers are not willing to keep people in their employ indefinitely and will either encourage or insist that people retire at some point.
People in the ministry are entirely unique and special cases. Clearly they aren't going to quit their day job and go do something for God. They did this already when they answered the call of God. What they do as they get older is between them and God.
I have heard sermons preached that poked fun at retirement and described it as spending the rest of your life in a rocking chair on the porch. This is pretty close to the stereotype of the person who moves to a retirement community like Green Valley and drops out of life. But if you were to actually get to know the people who live in Green Valley, you would discover that, by and large, these are high achievers and successful people who are still extremely active. You don't get to Green Valley by being a loser.
There can certainly be a dark side to retirement. Many men derive a lot of their self-worth from their employment, and they may feel guilty, worthless, and depressed when they retire. It is all too common in the non-Christian world for retirement to be an entry point into an alcoholic lifestyle. The image is one of a man spending all day in front of the TV half-drunk watching game shows.
For me, retirement is a golden opportunity and a great blessing from God. Thankfully, I am sound in body and mind, and healthy enough to do things I want to do. I don't want to waste a minute of it! I have a paycheck coming in and I cannot get fired or laid off. I have found it a freedom not unlike the freedom I had as a child, only now I know enough to make intelligent use of it. I can certainly use this freedom to serve and glorify God.
I have been fortunate in that I was able to enter into retirement gradually. It reminds me of the children of Israel entering the Promised Land. God did not give it to them all at once, but they had to possess it and drive out the inhabitants as they went. I have had the chance to adjust to partial retirement prior to being fully retired. Having the freedom to establish your own schedule, routines, and goals could certainly lead to sloth and wasted time.
On the other hand, though, you can and should take the bull by the horns, taking charge of your life and making the most of it. I am using the freedom of retirement for all kinds of things and am, if anything, busier now than ever. One of my guidelines is to be a doer, not a spectator. Another is to put a priority on spending time with people and developing relationships.
Everyone is different, but retirement has allowed me to get outdoors more and enjoy backpacking and climbing mountains; to pursue hobbies such as photography, machine shop work, welding, and electronics; to finish unfinished projects, read more books, and stay in shape. The sky is the limit for someone with intelligence, imagination, and energy – which is the sort of person I like to think I am. I hear stories about people who enter into a whole new sort of life, becoming artists or musicians, starting businesses, pursuing dreams. Some people plant churches.
Incidentally, I did buy a rocking chair and put it on my porch. Some mornings I even find a few minutes to sit in it.