Category Archives: Retirement

On Leaving Well (7)


It doesn’t stop, does it? When you were little, people kept asking you what you were going to do when you grew up? It continued through high school and college. Then when you finally did start a career, the question changed a little but was still the same. “What are you going to do next?” You finally reach retirement, but the question still continues. “Now what are you going to do?”

For clergy, there is an extra edge to the question. Sure you can take some extra time to play golf or tennis, read novels without thinking about illustrations in sermons, take some extra trips, spend more time in the flower garden. If you made it to retirement in the ministry, the sense of God’s call is deeply embedded in your soul. There comes a time for many of us when the respite of playing is done and we have to ask what we are going to do that satisfies our sense of God’s call in this chapter of our life?


How many years do you have left before you die? That is rather blunt, isn’t it? With the exception of some seriously ill people, it is also an impossible question to answer. Still, at retirement, you are close enough to that day that is bears some examination. What do you want to do between now and then, however long it is, that feels right in your response to God. Or to use the Westminster Confession, how are you  going to “glorify God and enjoy God forever?”


The three-fold temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11) takes on a different form in retirement. If, as was described in my two previous blogs, you have accepted God’s healing forgiveness for any failures or unresolved issues in the past, you are free to serve God in a different way in retirement. You no longer have to prove yourself to the world, or climb some mythical ladder to success. You are free to make use of the lessons from your past but you are not constrained by them.

Some pastors do fill pulpits, offer their wisdom through interim pastorates, or teach courses. Some exercise their gifts in music or writing. One of my purposes is to spend some more personal time in deepening my spiritual life. Others find a satisfying way to serve through volunteer work.

If you have nothing left to prove and no more achievements to accomplish, what are you set free to do? Thomas Merton speaks of moving beyond the attachments that create a false self and discovering the true self that God offers us. Think about how that might manifest itself in your life at this time.