Yesterday a church member said to me, “How’s the farewell tour going?”
I suppose this had something to do with my upcoming retirement, and I will assume (because of my natural good-heartedness) that the comment was meant in jest, but it hit the ear wrong. I found myself tearing up unexpectedly.
It’s true that I am in the last months of my ministry here in Switzerland, and I’ve been thinking that there might be some wisdom that I could pass along – or at least note for my own benefit.
I thought about keeping a journal over these last weeks and months, with a view toward writing my next book, but my editor told me – in the nicest possible way – that I’d have to think of a much more clever angle than that. Books about retirement, she said, are not big sellers.
The coordinator of the men’s breakfast asked if I would speak at the November gathering and “kind of sum up my career,” as he put it, as though that could be done in 20 minutes, including time for Q&A.
So, here are some preliminary thoughts, a kind of rough draft for my presentation to the men:
- Not long ago I considered myself to be at the top of my game. There wasn’t a situation or crisis that I hadn’t seen before – or couldn’t think my way through. At about the same time, though, I realized that what I knew about ministry was slowly becoming obsolete. My training wasn’t bad; it was just dated. Funny how the “top of my game” feeling should happen so close to the “my approach to this work is dated” realization.
- I’m not as patient as I used to be. I used to listen to people quite patiently years ago, people who weren’t inclined to accept my advice or who didn’t care much about what I had to say. I listened anyway, thinking that was what I was supposed to do. And now, I find myself drawn to Jesus’ words when he cut off a complainer by saying, “Do you want to be healed?”
- There’s a proverb – I’m pretty sure it’s in the Book of Proverbs – that blessing should always precede wisdom. I’ve always taken that to mean that what other people want from me, first of all, is blessing. And then, possibly, though not always, they will ask for my wisdom. Either way, I should always begin with blessing, as in “you’re really good at that” or “I think you have a gift.” These words might one day lead to someone saying, “What do you think about…?” or “what would you do in this situation?” At this point in my life, I am concentrating on giving blessings, not knowing if anyone will ask for wisdom, of which I have quite a lot, in my humble opinion.
- Not long ago David Letterman was quoted as saying, “Anyone who retires to spend more time with family should first ask for the family’s opinion.” It’s a good line, one I should probably pay attention to. Among other things, as I have written here, I hope to spend more time with my family in retirement. What I haven’t heard yet is that anyone wants to spend more time with me. If that turns out to be true, look for me greeting shoppers at Walmart.
That’s all I have for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll post it here. In the meantime, you all are really good at what you do. I mean it.
(Photo: Back in Holland – Michigan, that is – my shoes are waiting!)