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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Working toward retirement?

I had a conversation with a person the other day who has retired and finds himself just a little "cooped up" in the house these days.  He isn't really that unique to some who have no specific "function" to perform once they retire. Many will recount how much they looked forward to retirement - hoping for lazy days, leisurely coffee in the mornings, and an occasional trip abroad to explore places on their "bucket list".  Then in almost the next breath, you will begin to hear this "hint" of remorse because retirement isn't working out as they planned.  Either they lost the one they hoped to spend all that time with, or they seem a little bit "lost" because they have more time on their hands than they counted on.  The truth is God made us to "work", not retire.  The first definition for "retire" in the dictionary usually refers to this process of "going away or apart", as in to withdraw.  It takes a couple more definitions to find the one which refers to "ceasing employment".  Just because we cease our "employment" doesn't mean we cease work!  We just change "professions"! We might take on new tasks, but we don't stop entirely.  When we choose to stop entirely, we often find ourselves feeling a little unfulfilled because God made us to pursue purposeful endeavors, my friends.  Now, don't get me wrong - I am working toward retirement just like others are.  All this means is that I am trying to ensure I have enough saved so I don't have to rely upon the day-to-day grind of continuing employment through the final days of my life.  I don't plan to stop "working" entirely.  If you have ever talked with me at any length about what I want to do "into my retirement" you will soon have discovered I want to volunteer at church, spend time in disaster or relief efforts through an organization who supports these efforts, and also enjoy travels, family, and lots of friendship moments!  I don't want to withdraw into some hobbit existence - I have purpose left to fulfill, so I want to continue doing that until the day I breathe my last!

If you obey the Lord, you won’t go hungry; if you are wicked, God won’t let you have what you want. Laziness leads to poverty; hard work makes you rich.  At harvest season it’s smart to work hard, but stupid to sleep. (Proverbs 10:3-5 CEV)



Right now, those of us who still "go off to work", or engage in some "work" experience at home (even those of you who are "stay at home" moms and dads) find ourselves perhaps day-dreaming about what it will be like to not have to "work so hard" all the time.  I guess this is human nature - we long for the weekends.  Lately, my weekends have been just as full as my weeks!  The weather is changing and my weekend "yard" improvements are under full construction (literally).  First came the deck extension - a project my son did most of the work on during his vacation, but one which required a great deal of work on my part, as well.  We put up the canopy beams together, made the supports and installed them, then hung the overhead shade screen.  After he made his way home, I still had to stain all the raw wood.  That was one weekend.  By the next weekend, I still had a mission in mind.  I wanted to block off the unsightly appearance of the sheds in the background of this area.  So, that meant some type of lattice work, or a shade screen installed between two of the larger support posts to assist in "blocking the view".  Guess what I did yesterday!  Yep, I got out the miter saw and went to work on that one!  Now it is up, stained, and looking sharp!  The BBQ grill has a new home.  The patio is cleaned off a little and the raised veggie gardens are looking good.  Yet, I am not done!  I still need to borrow the belt sander from my son, take down the deck surface we stained last year and re-stain/water seal it for this year!  

Most of life is like this - we do one thing which leads to another and then another. Most of life's "work" is never done!  We continue to evolve from one project to another until we find ourselves glad to celebrate the ones behind us, but then looking ahead to the ones yet incomplete before us.  Whether it be the practical stuff of life like the deck which needs a little attention, or the "softer" stuff in life like the relationship which needs a little cultivating, we all have "projects" in life which never really "finish".  There are times we just want to "retire", but if we were to do so, we'd miss out on all God has planned for us in the "difficulty of the work" which still remains to be done.  It is hard not to want to just be "lazy" and walk away from the harder stuff!  For example, I put another coat of stain over the old deck, just as an interim measure of protecting it and the raised beds.  I won't be able to ignore the older section of the deck forever, though.  The "new coat" of stain won't change the fact I have some areas which are cracked and need a good water seal on them!  I will need to invest the time to do the job well if I want the long term benefits of enjoying this deck!

The same is true in our everyday lives - those things we want to have the privilege of enjoying long-term will take effort way beyond what we put into it today!  We must continue to cultivate relationships, or they dry up and we find ourselves drifting apart.  We must nurture our commitment to truth, or we will find ourselves adopting all kind of "mindless philosophy" which seems reasonable, but really has no solid basis.  We must invest our time in worthwhile efforts which produce good results, but don't take away from those things which are really a priority in our lives.  In the days when Solomon penned these words, the man's "work" was part and parcel with his family life.  If he was a carpenter, his whole family life surrounded his chosen career.  He would work in a "shop" which was usually attached to his home.  He'd craft his wares right where his sons and daughters would watch him do it.  He'd take teachable moments to instruct his wee ones on the finer points of choosing the right woods, fitting the pieces together in such a way as to give them both form and solid structure, and the like.  When he would see the children squabble over a cast off piece of scrap wood, he'd take the time to teach them the importance of sharing, combining resources to get the desired result they wanted, and then he might even cast off another piece just so they could expand their dreams. 

God doesn't expect us to "retire" into a hermit's existence.  He expects us to refocus our "work" into new pursuits which only transition our talents into new opportunities.  We don't work our way into laziness - we work our way into new heights waiting to be explored with a fresh set of eyes!  Just sayin!