Just turned 65 and facing the prospect of a mandatory retirement. By the end of the year I join the ranks of Retired Methodist Pastors.
What does retirement mean for me?
I learned from a fellow colleague whose father was also a Methodist Pastor. When it came for his father to retire, he was completely lost and totally devastated. His son found him sobbing away and saying, “What am I going to do now?” His identity as a Pastor was inextricably tied to his pastoral appointment.
I feel my identity as a Pastor is inextricably tied to my calling rather than my appointment. The time will soon come when this conviction will be tested. Will I feel “secure” as a Pastor without a paid salary?
I reflected further. Does retirement mean a withdrawal of service for the Lord? Does it mean I don’t have to serve the Lord anymore? Does it mean I pull myself out from all services for the Church? Does it mean “I have done my part” and now it is perfectly ok for me to be selfish and think only of myself?
I am convinced that retirement is not an excuse to stop serving the Lord. I am reminded of what the Lord said: “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10}.
Jesus also reminds us as servants of the Lord there is no such thing as work done, task completed and time for a well-deserved endless vacation.
“So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do’” (Luke 17:10).
Retirement brings not less but more opportunities to serve the Lord. We need to redeem the time and opportunity. “Making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).
Still, the seductive call of our day is to view retirement as a golden opportunity for self-indulgence. The advice given by many, both explicitly and implicitly boil down to this: “Relax, slow down. Take it easy. Amuse yourself. Do only what you enjoy.”
The prescription given is not maximizing usefulness but maximizing leisure.
If that’s the end goal of retirement, then the closing chapter of our Christian life is no longer significant but simply quite empty and useless.
Far from it, we should be running the last lap of our Christian life with greater zeal and vigour. As we draw close to the finish line we should be picking up pace as we see the face of Jesus coming into sharper focus.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith“ (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Ralph Winter said, “Most men don’t die of old age, they die of retirement.”
I am probably never going to retire. I am heading for the gym to get fit for the last lap. I am fixing my eyes on Jesus at the finish line. There will be plenty of time for R and R on the Day of Resurrection.
For now, “Let me tell about Your strength to all the people living now, and about Your power to all who are to come “ (Psalm 71:18 NLV).