It’s tough to think about retirement for me. First off, there seems to be a precedent in our family that when you retire, you die… I know that sounds crazy, and there are many people who have successfully retired and had a terrific last season of their lives but I’m a little hesitant to test the family history.
Another thing to consider is how late it was in my career when I finally dedicated myself to something I loved to do – and it wasn’t even in the business community. You see, I was raised with the understanding that I would someday become the patriarch of the family – being the oldest son and all – and that meant that it was my destiny to live a life of service – making sure that our mother and my two younger brothers were well cared for. I know this kind of thinking is very old school, but that was the expectation that was painted for me as a boy.
When Dad was diagnosed with cancer the week of my finals at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I have up the idea of medical school and knew it was responsibility to help work in the family business and try to take over for Dad. When Dad passed away a little more than four years later, the company was stable and I was stuck in a position that was far away from anything I had ever envisioned myself doing.
I eventually left the company and Janet and I moved to north suburban Indianapolis in search of something to do. After months of trial and error, we started a company in early 1983. Mind you, nothing that I was excited about – but it was a way to pay the bills and keep the family afloat. Almost eighteen years later, in 2000, Janet and I felt compelled that I should consider attending seminary.
The next eight years were spent writing papers, working on degrees and having a wonderful time growing closer to God and to my classmates in school. When I finally graduated and earned my doctoral degree, I figured I would never darken the doorstep of a company again.
I was wrong. I guess God didn’t figure that having a church was in my future and so I found myself back in the corporate world – with a much stronger faith while my consulting took on a decidedly spiritual tone. We started a ministry, helped people in career transition and then I started helping senior leadership teams and entrepreneurial organizations.
So I was in my mid fifties before I started loving what I did. And love it I did. For the first time in my corporate career I enjoyed my work and as it has been said, I got tired “in the work” but not “of the work.” I still feel that way. However, as I get a little older I find myself enjoying the ministry work even more that I did a decade or more ago.
I still enjoy keeping my hand in the corporate world but find that I am less eager to replace clients or go out and search for new business. I now refer to myself as 97% retired. That doesn’t mean that I have stopped working on things that I love to do but I have much more time for helping others and having more free time to do as Janet and I please. I don’t think that I will ever completely retire. I will always want to challenge myself and keep my mind active.
The Bible only mentions retirement once – and that even depends on the version that you are reading. Even the Levites were not expected to completely retire. They were to study and learn their roles from the elders who were no longer serving in official capacities in the temple. Then, they were to serve until the age of fifty, at which time they would discontinue their normal routines in the temple and “retire” from active service. It was at this time that they would then devote their energies to mentoring the younger men and help them to learn the rituals and routines that would be a part of their lives until they themselves attained the age of fifty. Then, the cycle would continue for another generation…
Our verse for tonight reminds us of the words the LORD spoke to Moses, as recorded in the Pentateuch. We are told, in Numbers 8:23-26, “The LORD said to Moses, “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work…”
My encouragement tonight is that we are to never completely retire from life! Even when our active income years are behind us, we are to continue looking for ways to be significant to our world. My prayer is that we will all urge one another to stay the course and continue to add value to our world as we grow older. There are plenty of places to serve and contribute to the kingdom of God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…