For those about to retire or very newly retired, this question (What Are You Going to Do Now?) is one that is asked of us over and over again. The answer – if we have one – is as varied as the life that has been lived before this new season begins. It can also be a frustrating question despite the intent of the one asking because we are just arriving in this new season and it (like other previous seasons) is a path we only see a small glimpse of.
The question comes to those who have been employed somewhere doing something. It conjures up a number of implications to the person of whom it is asked. These include but are not limited to things like: 1) Do you think I am only what I have been doing all these years? Or 2) Have you only defined me by my occupation or profession?
The new season of retirement will be impacted by our health, our finances, our relationships, our interests, our passions, our dreams, our faith walk, and what the Lord has set for us on the path ahead.
Retirement also is impacted by the variety of ages from which we start the season. Retirement can start for some in their 50’s and for others not until their 70’s. There are also those who retire and then later start a new job for pleasure, interest, or finances. Some may have a plan for this season and others may not.
It is likely not the best question to ask because we may not know what we want to “do” or “be” until we actually have gotten started on the retirement path. Some of us become aware that our demanding schedules and professions have left us more tired and depleted than we knew until the adrenaline stops and we can really step aside.
That depletion may be more wearing for those in “helping occupations or professions” where emotional energy was expended continuously for a long period of time. And because of the demands of some schedules and professions or occupations, there was no time to pursue a hobby or interest and now we feel “at sea” with no time constraints.
There is a period of “letting go” of the responsibility and the identity that was connected with our life’s work. For some of us whose work was less an outgrowth of who we are, that can be more challenging as we start sorting out who we are now.
Some retirees make a move to a warmer, sunnier climate and a smaller house near water or a golf course. Others have made some shifts in location and housing prior to their arrival at retirement. It’s okay that each path and choice is different. We are each unique at any age.
The exciting thing for us as believers is the assurance that we arrive at this season without surprising the Lord and in fact, it is He who has often determined the timing of it. Beyond that He has a design that fits us perfectly for what that looks like for each of us and as we wait on Him for direction, we can rest in the assurance that He will lead in this one just as certainly as He was with us every step before now.
I was one of those who didn’t know the answer to the question when I was asked four years ago as I was preparing to retire. I knew we would visit our out-of-state children and grandchildren more often and easily, but I wasn’t involved in activities or sports that met regularly or provided a schedule for what my days and weeks might look like. I didn’t enjoy the question…especially after the tenth time it was asked.
What I discovered was that the Lord continued to lead and open doors for His purposes just as He had always done. I discovered He knew me well and had never forgotten childhood and adolescent dreams I had set aside when we were raising our children, making a living, and establishing our professional lives. His open doors and nudges led me to begin working on those dreams and possibilities. They actually matched who I was and the things I had worked in for the whole of my life, but in new ways that I found delicious. It was as if He had saved this season for dessert that refreshed and energized my passions and creativity.
Retirement is about trusting Him in this new season and looking to Him for how we might spend it.
It’s about trusting Him with our finances, our health questions, what we will do…the whole of our future. It’s key not to compare ourselves. It’s okay if some of us spend our days golfing or fishing while others volunteer in a vast array of options. It’s okay that some of us take up new things, go exploring in libraries or travel brochures. It’s okay that some of us lay down ministry that we have done in formalized settings and discover the serendipitous ways the Lord allows new opportunities for ministry as we get acquainted with neighbors or have time to engage the clerk, waitress, and others who cross our path. Before now we were in such a rush, we barely noticed them or paid attention to how they might appear or how we might bless them.
There are others who can help or journey with us in this new season, but our path will still be unique.