Will You Ever Retire?
Notes on vocation and rest
How do you feel when you see ads on television for retirement? How about when you see ads for retirement living? How about when you see ads for assisted living, or walk-in showers, or stair lifts? You may have felt a kind of disconnect between the promises of the ads and the realities of getting older.
There is a lot that is interesting about the concept of retirement. If you could choose to never work again, would you do so? The answers to this question depend on what your work is, and the demands that your work places on your time, your body, your emotions and your levels of stress.
I have heard a number of Christian theologians say that retirement is not a Christian concept.
Obviously work can feel like a pressure. It would seem to me that retirement can feel like a pressure. Retirement, strangely, becomes the thing that we work for, as if the goal of working is to be able not to work.
Those Christian theologians and teachers who state that retirement is not a Christian concept are pointing us towards the concept of vocation. Vocation is about meaning and purpose and bearing witness to that which matters. It might be possible to retire from work, but in hopeful Christian theology you never retire from vocation. This is a gift. In the language of faith, it means that you are always called to reflect God’s love in the world. Even when our society, that worships productivity and youth, deems someone relatively useless, more hopeful world views counter such limited thinking.
I saw an article recently on a new trend. Apparently it is growing in popularity to retire not to a small town or to a gated community, but to cruise ships. I suppose cruise ships could be thought of as the ultimate gated community. You can read the article to consider the appeal that those who are “retiring to the sea” feel about such a phenomenon. I confess that I do not find the idea appealing.
I want to offer you something that I sense as hopeful. You have vocation. For some people, vocation and work come together. This is generally thought of as a blessing, but there are costs as well. For many people, vocation is something that is accomplished in spite of work or in the context of work, but is not defined by the goals of the employer or the company itself. That’s okay, too.
The fact that hopeful faith is something that does not require retirement is a positive. Our lives are always meaningful, even though we sometimes try to convince ourselves otherwise. Vocation is even better than luxury.