by Darin S. Harris
A cardboard box contains the remains of a lifelong career. It holds a coffee cup imprinted with “World’s Greatest Grandpa,” photos of the family, a few books on success, pens, pencils, and a nearly empty package of breath mints, the outer one slightly gray.
No reason to rise early tomorrow. No need to set an alarm. Not that it matters. You’ll still wake at 5:45, the same as you have for years.
What’s next? Relax. Take it easy. You’re retired.
What does God say about retirement? Interestingly, he’s rather silent on the subject. Perhaps it’s because retirement is a fairly new phenomenon.
A Biblical Example
The king, his hair thin and gray, hands gnarled, lay on his deathbed. Bones aching, body weak and shaking, he couldn’t get warm no matter what his servants tried. He’d lived a good life and had no regrets. He was ready to die.
Then came the news. “You can’t die yet, there’s more to do.” Two men contended for the throne. Both were sons of the king, the heir and usurper; so if either ruled, the king’s lineage would continue. He could have rolled over and said, “I’m too old for this. Let the young ones fight over it. My time is past.”
But not this king. Calling his advisors, he assessed the situation. He met with the leaders who ruled under him and made sure a coronation was held for the true heir to the throne.
Then the king called for his son, the heir, and educated him. He reviewed what he had taught him throughout his lifetime. Only after the rightful heir was firmly on the throne and the usurper had abdicated his false claims to the crown did King David, the giant killer and friend of God, retire.
A Closer Look
Retired. It’s a word that doesn’t seem to work. Re can mean “again,” or “redo. “
Does this mean we spend 30 years growing tired and now have to do it again? I doubt I’d get too many supporters for that definition.
Sometimes I picture it a different way. My model is a pit stop crew in auto racing.
I’m not mechanically minded—not even a little. Recently I replaced a rear turn signal bulb on my truck. Although it should have taken five minutes, three hours and four trips to the parts store later I’d gotten so mad I broke the rear light assembly. I shoved it all back in and started once again to the parts store to return the new assembly I’d bought—the one that didn’t work. On my way to the store I absent-mindedly flipped on the turn signal and it worked! If I’d have known breaking it would have fixed it I could have done that before I ever bought the new bulb.
My lack of skill in the field of auto mechanics heightens my appreciation for pit stop crews. After a car has traveled around the track several times, having been driven hard, it rolls into the pit stop with worn tires. In a matter of seconds the pit stop crew has re-tired the vehicle. It’s ready to get back on the track and do what it was designed to do.
I wonder if that’s God’s idea of retirement. He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
Yes! you might be thinking, especially if you’re close to retirement. You might be picturing a hammock under a shade tree or a recliner in the den. Sorry to mess up your daydreams, but God doesn’t necessarily want you to stop there.
“Take my yoke upon you” (v. 29). A yoke is the work tool of the oxen. It allows two oxen to pull a load together.
“You want rest and relaxation?” God asks. “Come and work with me. That’s where you’ll find it.” Perhaps in God’s eyes retirement is more about re-commissioning—God giving you time to do a new job, maybe a job with greater impact than your former career.
Don’t Miss Out
Unfortunately many, like my friend Clarence, miss it.
His hair was thin and white, his face lined with wrinkles. The cup shook slightly as he set it on the table between us.
Some might have looked at Clarence and called him old. I had thought of him that way when I first saw him. But his eyes were bright and alert. He had a quick smile and quicker wit. Age may have slowed him down some, but a person only had to talk to him for a few minutes to know he had much to offer the world.
That was why I was sitting across from him that day. I was expecting great things. I didn’t get them.
“It’s time for the young ones to lead.” He gave me a white whiskered smile and a shrug as he said it.
“But there’s not . . . .”
He shook his head cutting me off. “I’ve served long enough. I’m retired.”
That was the end of the discussion. The church had a need. He had the experience, the time, and the resources to fill the need; but he’d done enough. He’d retired.
It doesn’t have to be that way. I recall a man who started a new career at age 69, when most of his peers had already been retired for several years. He held the job for only eight years, but he is known more for his work there than for any other thing he did in his life. His name was Ronald Reagan.
Many see Reagan as one of our country’s finest presidents, and he accomplished all of that after many his age would have passed the baton on to the younger crowd. His example, like King David’s, can inspire us to carry on even after our careers may end. When the time comes, let God re-tire you so you can get back out there and do what you were created to do.
Darin S. Harris is a freelance writer in McDonough, Georgia.