Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

August 4, 2002


Why do people keep asking me if I am enjoying my retirement?


            Almost daily someone asks me if I am enjoying my retirement. I find that a rather strange question.

            It makes me wonder what the questioner is thinking. Does my face betray no feeling at all? Is it an honest question prompted by my blank expression?

            Or do I look so content that my friends simply want me to confirm that I am having a ball in retirement?

            Or is my countenance so sad that it prompts people to invite me to confess that retirement has robbed me of my joy?

            Whatever the motivation behind the question, I enjoy responding with a little intrigue. I usually reply by calmly saying, “I am retired.”

            I leave it to each person to guess whether or not I am enjoying retirement. After all, the people who know me best know that I have always enjoyed life. So why should they not assume that I continue to enjoy life after retirement.

            The truth is, I enjoy life in retirement. Retirement is another matter. My work as an active pastor was terminated by our church’s mandatory retirement rule. It was not a step I wanted to take. I had to accept it and move on.

            Self-pity and resentment, longtime acquaintances of mine, knocked on my door and offered to become my house guests. I told them both they were not welcome to spend a single night in my home.

 They slammed the door and left. If they come back, and they will, they will get the same treatment. If I let them hang around even for a little while, they will simply make matters worse.

The challenge of retirement, for me at least, is to determine what I have to offer and then find ways to offer it. That requires self-examination. It demands the best thinking I can do.

So lately I have been asking myself what I can do best, and what I truly have fun doing. A friend has helped me to see that what I have fun doing may well be what I need to do.

            Some folks have such twisted minds that they figure anything you have fun doing is surely sinful, or at least it has nothing to do with godly living. Such thinking is warped.             God may have made us so that his will for us is embedded in the thing we find joy and fulfillment in doing.

A teacher, for example, may find complete contentment in the classroom working with children. Fulfillment is experienced when that teacher, despite the normal problems of teaching, feels in the marrow of his or her bones that “I was born to be a teacher.”  

Retirement from pastoral ministry does not mean that I can no longer do what I feel that I was born to do. It simply means that I must find other ways to do it.

That is what I have been busy doing, in the midst of keeping some preaching engagements and unpacking our stuff. Actually it is almost a fulltime job advising correspondents of our address change.

One of my dearest friends has encouraged me to stop struggling to know what to do. He says I should simply enjoy every day, hang loose, and love God in whatever ways come along. He says I must learn to drift.

While I love and respect him, and admire his easygoing approach to life, I have trouble embracing the word “drift.” It has always suggested a life without purpose and direction. I know too that he means more than that by inviting me to learn to drift.

I know he wants me to relax and stop making big plans for the rest of life. But I keep telling him that I do want to relax more, but to do so while I am sorting out an excellent game plan for the rest of life.

A plan will emerge. I am confident that life is not over simply because I have retired. Dare I say I have miles to go before I sleep?

I have always enjoyed challenges. What to do in retirement is a big challenge. Serious adjustments are underway. None of them are impossible to handle.

With the Lord’s help I will meet the challenge. In the meantime I will indeed enjoy life – in retirement.

What I simply cannot say right now is that I am enjoying retirement. I have to be honest about it – even if all my retired friends think I am nuts.