Retired…and Working…

Every so often, I meet with a friend of mine who is a coach and consultant, much the same as I am – with a little different client base than I serve. He has spent much of his career in an area that has more end user contact than the doctor practices and biomedical device teams that I tend to facilitate.

To be sure, it’s been about two years since we have had coffee together. Not that we wouldn’t have liked to speak into one another’s lives, but Jim ended up taking a full time position at one of his clients and Janet (and I) have been dealing with other issues that have kind of taken me out of circulation. I have been traveling a little more and we have been considering what retirement looks like. It’s been a work in progress.

Jim writes a periodic business blog and his post earlier this week really spoke to me. It was about a middle aged man who suffered a health crisis and found himself outside his normal routine for a period of time. Well, I know what that feels like – and so I picked up the phone and called Jim. Immediately, I realized that I had missed speaking with him and we set up a meeting to have coffee together earlier today.

I suppose I should say that I have been thinking about and praying about getting more active in my personal relationships, especially since I have been out of commission for a time. I have been gradually filling my calendar, at least a little, in an effort to ease back into my social network – not fully realizing that I have suffered a little social isolation as my workload decreases and I move undeniably toward retirement.

I love spending more time with Janet but another part of me is not ready to completely give up the corporate relationships in my life. It’s like if I let go of those, part of my identity will somehow be lost. Intellectually, I know that isn’t the case, but I have struggled with that “reality” my entire life. Our family has a history of people passing away after they “retire” and I am not ready for that to happen – at least not yet.

This is my issue to deal with – and so I refer to myself as “semi-retired” – working part time, if you will. But Jim walked in this morning and when I asked him what he was up to, he responded that he was “retired…and working.” I couldn’t help but laugh. Vintage Jim… He always has a way that puts a smile on my face as he and I, while both devout Christians with many similarities, have different points of view. Notice that I don’t think either of us is “wrong” – we are just different – and that’s VERY refreshing.

It always does my heart good to fellowship with him. I didn’t realize until this morning how much I really missed spending time together. And I can’t even put into words the blessing that he was to me this morning. It felt great to get out and reconnect. I even noticed that my viewpoint on certain items has changed a little during the last two years. We have both been hardened a little – by family events, death and the things that we each face as leaders of our respective families. I could tell from our conversation that we are both a little older – and wiser – almost becoming senior statesmen in our respective communities.

It was terrific to have a peer to speak with on issues that I tend not to talk about. I was anxious to get his perspective on my thought process and to share with him how my mind tends to process the retirement paradox. But I have to admit that when he told me that he was “retired…but working” it resonated with me. That’s what I need to do – retire from the formality of the corporate structure but continue to be an active and contributing member of society.

I coach several younger guys and one in particular, Brian, has really captured my heart. I have tried to pour my life into his development and he has been a blessing to me in the process. While I don’t see him that often, we touch base by phone and there will always be more to do. I challenge him and we have an authentic relationship that pushes each of us to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be. I gain as much, or more, than I give in that friendship.

On a different level, as peers, Jim and I do the same thing and I am struck by the fact that the Bible never refers to “retirement.” In fact, there isn’t any mention of it in the traditional sense. Even the priests, who studied for their positions until the age of thirty, were never to retire. They were to perform their priestly duties from age thirty to fifty – and then pour their lives into the next generations to prepare them for their roles in the priesthood. No retirement…ever… just a change in status – such as “retired and working.”

Our verse for tonight is a short one that speaks volumes. The Proverbs speak wisdom to us and we are told, in Proverbs 27:9, “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel.” My encouragement this evening is that God desires for us to consult others when it comes to our decisions. My prayer is that we will all reach out to others and seek their wise counsel as we navigate the twists and turns of our own lives. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

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