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This resource is brought to you by Thrive as part of a published resource called Retirement from Pastoral Ministry: Guidance for a Healthy Transition.

As was noted in another blog in this series, you now have plenty of opportunities to pursue your vocation even after your career is done. In other words, the season of retirement gives you lots of opportunities to keep busy (hopefully in ways that align with your life calling). 

All well and good, but there is also great virtue in slowing down. The last several months in the ministry were inevitably very demanding and draining. There were so many arrangements to make, so many last-minute decisions to process, and so many people to meet with for the last time. Among your many tasks were several that were probably new even to a veteran of your caliber. Thus, you may be weary during the first few months of your retirement. 

Add to this the fact that you have gone through numerous changes in your life. Maybe you live in another house, another neighborhood, another community. Maybe you have created for yourself a totally different daily routine and a different set of reasons for getting up in the morning. Maybe you are encountering changes in your key relationships, the ones you have with your spouse, your children, even with yourself and God! 

Such changes take much more out of you than you may have expected. Recognize that, and take it seriously! Take time to rest. Slow your pace. Take a nap. Take another one tomorrow. Seclude yourself with a great book. Enjoy the luxury of postponing things that are not urgent. Go for walks. Enjoy nature’s beauty. Say hello to people you see in the neighborhood. Take a vacation that doesn’t require great effort to arrange. Talk with the Lord a bit more and a bit longer than you used to. Smell the roses, the coffee, and your spouse’s hair.

Today you have the opportunity to live “sabbath” in a way that you never have before. Living sabbath is the art of living the truth that the world doesn’t depend on your effort but on the gracious providence of God. It’s the practice of taking time, on a regular basis, to be unproductive so as to recognize that God created us as persons and not machines. We are, as the saying goes, human beings and not human doings. 

Sabbath might well become the dominant feature of your life for a while– perhaps even from here on out. There’s no shame in that, especially as you recognize these two things:

  1. That sabbath is a gift and not an entitlement. Sabbath (and retirement) is not the world’s payment to you for being such a valuable contributor for so many years. It is not what God owes you after you’ve worked so hard for him all that time. It is not your gift to yourself for fulfilling grand commitments made at the beginning of your career. It is the generosity of God to you after a long season of using the gifts he gave you in the ministry to which he called you.
  2. That living more deeply into sabbath might actually be a new way to live vocationally, in alignment with your life’s calling. Part of your calling as a citizen of God’s kingdom has always been to live in dependence on God’s provision. In retirement you get to do that in a new way, with a slower pace, with fewer items on your “to do” list, with more room for reflection and conversation with God. 

There is great virtue in slowing down. For the first six months of your retirement, or for the rest of your life. In gratitude to God and in response to the calling that God has always had on your life. As Joan Chittester has written, retirement is the counterculture of the culture [particularly Western culture]. It says that just being alive and learning to live well is a sign in itself to the rest of humanity of the quintessential goodness of life.

NOTE: This article comes out of a study of ministry transitions, done by members of the Thrive staff of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. The studied transitions include the transition from later career into retirement. The guidance here is part of a larger retirement resource that updates a 2006 resource called "Closing Well — Continuing Strong." The full updated resource, now titled “Retirement from Pastoral Ministry: Guidance for a Healthy Transition,” can be found here on the Thrive website.

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