Retirement brings some degree of quiet. For me that development is a welcomed change after years in noisy engineering labs surrounded by industrial fans and beefed up cooling units. Even the cubical farm offices I occupied came with an abundance of racket from Loud Howard’s endless shouting into his speaker phone to the dozens of conversations up and down the aisles. To make progress in that environment I learned to filter distractions.
Retirement quiet gives time for us to reflect and consider where we’ve been, and that counts as a positive and a negative. Our mental evaluations of the past can encourage us, motivate us, and energize us. Or they can give rise to disturbing questions that may anchor our present to some point in the distant past. Have you found yourself considering questions such as:
- Was my career choice a mistake?
- Did I accomplish enough?
- Suppose I had chosen option A instead of B at that moment?
- Have my actions on that person’s behalf made any difference?
- What meaningful contributions can I continue to make with the resources and opportunities at hand?
The definition of being over-the-hill is to have fewer years in front of me than behind me. And once that hill has been peaked gravity contributes heavily to speed the downhill race. Time flies as the urgency builds to complete, to finish, and to fulfill. Perhaps you now wrestle with the frustrations of physical decline or illness and struggle to navigate uncharted waters. The doctor offers little hope as he dismisses the situation by labeling it as “your new normal.”
And time still flies.
I wrestled for a while with the idea that something had slipped by God’s capable hands when He was occupied elsewhere. I know, that is not a biblical position, but it illustrates the depths our minds can drill when disturbing questions overwhelm. My plans were for an active retirement with much hiking, canoeing, exploring, and maybe some travel. The harsh reality is that a ride to the grocery store wipes me out, and a leisurely walk through the neighborhood often presents a challenge beyond my ability. A multi-mile hike, once a routine stretch of my legs, is out of the question.
Walk with me back to Eden, and ponder this snapshot of Adam’s place. God set up that garden and installed the man there on purpose.
Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.Genesis 2:15 NASB
God’s nature is to fashion us and plop us down in the best spot for our growth and our service and our deeper worship of Him. God chooses the exact place that aligns with our bents (talents or inclinations) and His plan. He’s God, and His wisdom exceeds ours so greatly that there can be no comparison. The garden was the perfect spot for Adam.
Adam held two responsibilities according to the verse we just read. Depending on your Bible translation you may see various terms:
- Work and keep (ESV)
- Dress and keep (KJV)
- Cultivate and keep (NASB)
- Tend and watch over (NLT)
- Work and take care (NIV)
- Work the ground and keep it in order (MSG)
Recall that God designed Adam, prepared the perfect spot, and plugged Adam in to use his unique makeup in serving God’s purposes. Adam had freedom and the privilege to cultivate and keep as he saw best. Can you imagine God dropping by for their daily stroll and Adam sharing, “Look! I moved the beans over by the corn so the vines can climb the stalks. And I collected the pink roses into one spot with the white ones in front. What do you think? Doesn’t that make the best display?”
I can imagine God smiled, delighted that Adam understood his role and his freedom. One who cultivates and keeps finds joy in the resulting growth. And I have to think that Adam recognized he was only the steward of the garden. He gave his best effort to please the Owner.
Sure, I’m speculating, but we can read over this verse and miss the deeper truths. God has invested my lifetime preparing me for this moment. He has a purpose for me even when I struggle to grasp it. He is much wiser than I am and has the advantage of omniscience. I am where He wants me—retired—and like Adam I have responsibilities in this new role.
How can one who is out of the workforce cultivate and keep? Isn’t the retirement role supposed to be sit and stew? Or is it rock and reminisce? Or maybe rest and rehash? No, we have work to do, a role to fill, and a purpose to serve. Even with restrictions and limitations, which God knows all about and is not surprised to see, we have responsibilities.
We have years of wisdom and know-how.
Often those who need counsel most do not yet recognize us a resource. Unsolicited advice becomes an irritation to them as they stumble through challenges we mastered years ago. Pushy intrusions may harm the relationship, so we must wait until asked. Then we move carefully with tact and diplomacy to mentor and share.
We can determine to listen.
With more flexibility in the schedule do we find time to invest in others through the art of listening? Listening is hard work mastered over years of practice, so the sooner we begin the better our chances of getting good at it. And please refer back to the previous point. We do not listen just until we spot our opening to pounce in and set the record straight. Listening does not imply agreement or approval. It is simply a courtesy we extend to another.
We can speak words of encouragement.
I watched a teen worker as he wiped the endless handles in the freezer section of the store. He sterilized the environment to protect customers picking out groceries. I told him how much I appreciated his effort. He squared his shoulders and attacked the task with new energy. Can we remember what it was like working for peanuts in a job where an adult, often frustrated by his or her lack of career mobility, passed out our assignments? Kind of makes us well-suited for the role of encouragers, doesn’t it? We understand what life is like with its ups and downs. We’ve learned the importance of longterm thinking and planning. We remember wondering if present denial and sacrifice would lead to benefits later in life.
We can be the odd ducks on social media.
I have yet to meet anyone whose political or religious outlook shifted because of a Facebook post. We all have opinions, and this diabolical medium allows us to share our position as well as heap words of devaluation on others who hold different views. We all know that guy who invests his hours dredging the sewers of social media looking for garbage to repost. Blast and fade away. Insult and scroll on. Is that who I want to be? Can we find a way to use social media tools in a way that uplifts?
We can prepare carefully for those who will come after.
Stewardship applies to retirement the same as any other stage of life. We have much planning to complete and paperwork to create. Those who have probated a loved one’s estate know the twists and turns that pop up because of unclear documentation. Write things down and archive the pages where those who come later can find them. My late mother purchased a cheap composition book with the familiar coiled-wire binder. On those pages were captured her account numbers, even which day of the month the bills came due. Contact names. Phone numbers. That gift of love made my work easier on a job that reminded me constantly of a painful loss. Now with passwords and online accounts the exit tasks become more complex.
We can eat right and exercise.
Squeeze a tennis ball. Take a walk. Grab a shovel and plant some flowers. Play soccer with the grandkids. Parasail at the lake. We need to find something that gets us off the couch and moving. Pay attention to what goes into our mouths. In my care-free teen years I could down a pair of Big Macs, an order of fries, and a sugary coke and play basketball ten minutes later. Not anymore. I gain three pounds sniffing a donut. If the stock market rose as fast as my triglyceride and cholesterol levels we’d all be living next door to the Gates family.
Retirement affords time for me to do some serious cultivating and keeping. I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on the topic. Use the comments section below or the contact page on the site to reach out. And as always you are free to share this post on your social media.
We’re in this together.