I have a friend who is 62. He wants to retire. Other friends advise him to keep working as long as he is healthy. How do you decide when retirement is the best thing to do?
I feel comfortable in responding to this question. I’ve lived with it for the last nine years.
A point of departure is an understanding of what is meant by “retire.” Does your friend want to take less strenuous work but keep active? Does he intend to do absolutely nothing but leisure activities? Is retirement a way of drawing a pension to have its income while pursuing other financial interests? Is retirement an option out of stressful working conditions? Is retirement the opportunity to do other creative things that he has wanted to do but couldn’t because of being tied to a regular schedule?
The word has a multitude of implications. What does “retirement” mean to you?
Experience has taught me that there comes a point in life where energy levels change. What one could do earlier with physical or mental ease becomes an uncomfortable challenge. There are only a few “Calebs” in this world. Most others who brag about super strength in old age are wishful thinkers, have poor memories or are liars. I am referring to Joshua 14:10-11: “So here I am today, 85 years old! I am as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day.” While Caleb was an unusual man, the rest of us are average, some few above average, others below.
I was a neighbor to the late Benjamin Elijah Mays, former president of Morehouse College. Dr. Mays was publicly active until about 92 years of age. We served in some of the same institutional activities, so often I provided transportation when he could no longer drive. I remember asking him, “Doc, when are you going to slow down?” He replied: “Son, if I stop, I’ll drop. I don’t plan to drop.”
He died at age 95. Medically, we are told that those who become sedentary are at greater risk of dying earlier than those who remain active.
Some important questions are: What can I best do with whatever time I have left? What contributions can I make that will make a difference? Whom can I bless, and how? How can I enjoy my family and friends more? Are there unfinished tasks that seem to have my name on them?
Finally, the most important person to answer the question of when to retire is you. After you have sought the wisdom of God’s Holy Spirit, how comfortable are you about what you do with the rest of your life?
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Emmanuel L. McCall, pastor
Fellowship Group Baptist Church, East Point, Ga.
Adjunct professor at McAfee School of Theology
Right or Wrong? is sponsored by the T.B. Maston Chair of Christian Ethics at Hardin-Simmons University’s Logsdon School of Theology. Send your questions about how to apply your faith to [email protected] .