I never want to retire. I hope I have the passion, stamina, and capability to do what I love until the day I die. This may or may not mean “paid work,” it may or may not involve going to an office, it may or may not be what I’m doing now. But – by the grace of God – it will be something.
As I’ve built my theology of work, I am more and more convinced that retirement – as we typically define it as Americans – is often a complete rejection of our call.
Retirement can be isolating – we turn our focus inward and neglect our role in the larger community. Retirement can be selfish – we focus primarily on doing things that make us happy. Retirement can be wasteful – we deprive those around us of our resources and gifts.
But it’s not retirement’s fault. If you’re retired – in the traditional sense – or hoping to one day retire, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong!
How we view work and life is broken: We focus on working so hard in the first half of our life, sacrifice so much, often forgetting our dreams and gifts along the way, or placing them on a shelf to be examined later. No wonder we want to retire from all that, to maybe find ourselves again, to hopefully rekindle our earlier passions.
But when it comes down to it, I’ve seen too many people exhausted from the whole cycle. After they close the 40-hour-a-week chapter of their lives, they don’t want to re-discover their call, they just want to rest.
This is why I suggest it’s not an either/or proposition. We don’t have to put our passion, our calling, our heart’s desire on hold while we power through an unrelated career. And we don’t have to consider the final decades of our lives as downtime.
A proper understanding of work starts with identifying our gifts. It’s our responsibility to use these gifts to join God in the work God is doing of bringing the Kingdom to earth. This is how I understand “call” - it’s much less a mystical experience (although that can certainly happen), and much more a practical implication for how we use the gifts we’ve been given.
The thing is - we can put our call into action anywhere, in fact, we are expected to do just that! We can find ways to do the work only we can do, whether or not it’s what we’re getting paid to do, whether or not it’s the primary focus of our job, whether we’re early in our careers or retirement-aged. When we’ve discerned our gifts and calling, and know how to implement them, everyone benefits. Our communities receive our passion and input, and we nurture the areas of our soul that are most fundamental to our health and well-being.
Viewed this way, work is something we do our entire lives. It’s certainly not simple, and it may take some effort to figure out our gifts and calling, and how they fit into our day-to-day life. But I believe doing so is crucial - something we should never retire from!
(for more on discovering your gifts, living out your call, and developing your own theology of work, check out my new group study for free here)