What does ‘retirement’ really mean?

Chuck Tabor - Contributing columnist

Not Dead? Not Done!!

Chuck Tabor

In an article published some years ago, the heart cry of the author was to “Start Now, Retire Early!” That is an interesting subject, is it not?

One of the couples used as an example of the concept was a couple from the north, named Bob and Penny, who at the ages of 59 and 51 did just that – they retired! They sold their home up north and moved to Florida – to a city called Punta Gorda.

Bob and Penny, by their own admission, then spent their retirement years cruising in their thirty-foot trawler, playing softball in their year-round summer-like weather, and collecting shells. They called it delightful and proclaimed that they had earned it!

I don’t know about you, but, quite frankly, collecting shells does not sound like much of a retirement.

Since moving to Florida, my bride and I have encountered any number of individuals who have made fun of us for doing so. They make the claim that all we want to do is spend our “golden years” spending our gold (of which we have very little!), basking in the sun, and … collecting shells?

We did move to a place in the middle of the state – almost a two-hour’s drive from the nearest beach, but, with the exception of an occasional hurricane (Hello, Irma!), relatively free from serious weather at all. That fits in with my desire to quit “shoveling my weather!”

But we definitely have not retired!

The Bible does not say much at all about retirement. It seems that the individuals in the Bible worked as hard as they could for as long as they could.

Take Caleb, for example. When Moses sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to scout it out before the children of Israel were going to cross over, Caleb was one of those spies. Joshua was another one. The other 10 were the naysayers who convinced the people of Israel NOT to go into the Promised Land.

Joshua and Caleb were the only two who had enough faith to trust God to deliver them in the land of the giants. And they were the only two men from that generation permitted to enter into the Promised Land when God finally did allow them to go in.

Forty-five years after the first trip into the Promised Land, Caleb, now 85 years old, is thinking of anything BUT retirement. In Joshua 14, he proclaims to Joshua, now the leader of the children of Israel, that he is as strong at 85 as he was at 40.

He then asks Joshua to give him another mountain to climb and conquer for the Lord. Caleb is thinking of anything BUT retirement!

As my bride and I have moved to this part of the country, we have actively plugged into a vibrant and very mission-minded local church.

The theme of the church is that “If you are not dead, then you are not done!” The church has a year-round ministry to children around the world, through Operation Christmas Child, and regularly sends teams of workers to various missions projects around the world, including the Dominican Republic, South America, Africa, and, most recently, Cuba.

In addition, at least twice a year, the church is sending missions teams to the heart of New Orleans, Louisiana, where they are still recuperating from the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

This past week, we had almost 600 people gather to put together over 100,000 meals for Feed My Starving Children, and have raised funds for local food pantry and soup kitchen ministries as well.

Reporting all of this is not to brag, but it is to let you know that just because we have changed addresses, we are not giving up on serving the Lord and blooming where we have been planted.

This is also a challenge to each and every one around us not to spend those retirement years “collecting shells”, but to realize that God wants to use you, your skills, and your wisdom to impact the society around you and around the world. There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done!

Charles Colson tells the following story about his home town of Naples, Florida, which he calls “one of the garden spots of the world.”

“It’s an absolute nirvana for all golfers, and they all come there. They’re all CEOs of major corporations, and they retire to Naples, and this is ‘it’ — 27 golf courses and miles of sparkling beach and the best country clubs.

I watch these guys; they’re powerful people. They have this New York look on their face; they’re determined. But now, all of a sudden, they start measuring their lives by how many golf games they can get in.

“I often say to them, ‘Do you really want to live your life counting up the number of times you chase that little white ball around those greens?’ And they kind of chuckle, but it’s a nervous chuckle, because in six months they’ve realized how banal their lives are, and they’ve got beautiful homes — castles — and when they get bored with that, they build a bigger castle, and they’re miserable. The object of life is not what we think it is, which is to achieve money, power, and pleasure. That’s not the Holy Grail. The object of life is the maturing of the soul, and you reflect that maturing of the soul when you care more for other people than yourself.”

The Apostle Paul put it best, when he said, ”For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)

You and I are God’s masterpiece, put here on earth to do what we can in His strength and in his power for as long as He leaves us here… and for His glory, not just for our pleasure.

And that does not stop when we reach retirement age!

God bless…

Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.


Chuck Tabor

Contributing columnist