23 Apr

My father has 12 days of work left. This past weekend included a retirement celebration for him. Thirty-five years of teaching is coming to an end.

It got me thinking…no, I’m personally not yet ready to retire, but I’m interested in this idea.

The big question associated with retirement is, “Now what are you going to do?”

What’s the most frequent answer?

Most commonly, the perspective is that one’s time has been served, the work is done. And now, they will do nothing.

Oh sure, most retired people find something to do–there is still a desire to keep busy. Those who fail to find something with which to occupy themselves (which apparently is no longer termed an occupation) end up having a rather dismal and challenging time of it.

Most think of retirement as a season of rest; thirty or more years of labor–perhaps half or so of one’s life up to that point–followed by another few decades of recuperation.

I ran into one of my professors from graduate school not long ago, and he shared a perspective on retirement that was truly inspiring to me.

He had traveled to India a number of times, and had the chance to teach there on many occasions. It led him to consider retiring from his tenured position in the United States so that he could move to India and teach there–as a volunteer, without salary, for as long as he possibly could.

Remarkable. This professor wasn’t looking at retirement as a gateway to rest, but rather as the doorway to a whole new opportunity. He could get this season of work out of the way so that he could invest himself anew.

Upon reflection, his perspective seems right on.

Thinking about the word retire leads me to see it as re-tire, a chance to tire oneself out all over again, as the result of a new pursuit.

Having lived and labored in work and weariness, the season of garnering experience (and a pension) could be brought to close so that a new endeavor could be undertaken, free from the chains of having to build one’s career or reputation.

With some things out of the way, brand new opportunities to tire oneself out could now be explored.

Marvelous. Whereas retirement (like rest) is often perceived as an entitlement, we might truly maximize it if we behold it instead as opportunity. It’s not 20 or 30 years’ reward for 30 or 40 years of work; it’s just another season, with any number of chances to serve others, grow, invest, and contribute.

I was in a workshop recently with two retired military personnel. Each one had served for over 20 years, and now, they were on to another career. They had retired, but not in order to sit on a fishing boat. They took themselves in a new direction, having the opportunity to share their experience and expertise with others, in a forum where their every decision didn’t have to be impacted by the amount of the paycheck that they might receive. They were free…and loving it.

Re-tire. We all need seasons of recuperation–sometimes a day, a weekend, two weeks, or more. But recuperation is not an end in itself. We enjoy a season of restoration so that we can dive in once again.

Retirement provides a fantastic opportunity to recuperate significantly, and then to drastically change direction in how one gets involved next. It isn’t just “back to the grind”; a whole new raft of opportunities becomes available.

I’m looking forward to seeing how my father engages in his retirement. His impact and experience so far has been impressive. I hope he does indeed rest well. But I also hope that he’s willing to tire himself out all over again, as he continues to live as a blessing to others, impacting future generations, and living as an example of faithfulness, diligence, and excellence…in both his career and retirement alike.

Congratulations, Dad…I’m not done watching you yet.  🙂

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Posted by on April 23, 2012 in Life


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