I hadn’t really thought about the whole “who am I now” until I saw my former counselor at the gym. She told me she had retired, and when I asked her how it was going, she answered, “I really don’t know who I am anymore.” Several other people, including clergy colleagues, had mentioned the same thing.
That started my reflective brain! It’s beyond my comprehension at the moment to imagine what life will be like without having to prepare a sermon every week (or nearly every week) of the year. Someone once asked me how I did it, and I said that it was like writing a paper every week. But it’s so much more than that, too.
Writing a sermon weekly leads me deeper into the scriptures as I seek to find the words that I want to share, but even more importantly, that I believe God wants me to share. It’s a full week of reading, praying, reflecting, and struggling to give birth to a message that will help the congregations I serve to find the bridge between scripture and living the Christian life. I’ve said many times, when I print out the manuscript, it’s no longer mine. That has been very true because as I preach, other things pop into the sermon that I hadn’t planned. Even though I have a manuscript, it’s only guide anyway. The Spirit helps me to deliver the message, and it has been my job to listen and follow the nudges I feel.
But my work is also more than just writing sermons and leading worship (although I confess that it’s what I love to do the most). I also have the responsibility for providing pastoral care and leading people through Bible study, for administrative work that encompasses way more paperwork and planning that I could have ever imagined.
So, when I retire, that will all change and probably disappear from my weekly routine. Then what? Will I be sitting around twiddling my thumbs and trying to figure out where to be useful or productive? Will I end up with a regular routine of cleaning the house, doing the dishes, washing laundry, going to the gym, shopping, and all the things that I do on my day off but spread out over the week.
For me, the answer is to ask myself what I have always wanted to do but haven’t had the time. The list has begun to grow: get back to writing fiction (for fun if nothing else, but it might be interesting to see if I could publish), put together all the worship skits and dramas that I have written to see if anyone would publish those, travel more, spend time with friends, see more of this beautiful country, and so many other things. Of course, if I’m called to serve a church in retirement and if I decide to do that, this all could be a moot point until later.
All of this speculating is a process of learning and discovering. I guess I see it as an adventure rather than something about which to worry. There is a whole world of opportunities for learning and growing and – wow – I may even have more time to do some meditation! As I said, the list continues to grow!