Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

July 7, 2002


Detailing still more of the joyous discoveries of retirement


          One month into retirement I have many joyous discoveries to report. One of the funniest of these is that so much of our stuff is still missing – and it doesn’t seem to matter whether we find it or not.

            I say missing because I expect we will find everything eventually. We still have a few boxes to be emptied and sorted.

            But honestly I look at some of these boxes and laugh. Life will go on whether we unpack these boxes or not. Our lives will not be hampered if the leave the boxes unopened.

            Suppose we open a box of old picture frames, for example. Boxed, they can sit in our storage shed. Opened, we will have to figure out what to do with them, and where to hang them if we put pictures in them.

            There is another box that smells like some of the chemicals I had when I had a garden. I gave up gardening seven years ago but I haven’t thrown away the fertilizer and bug spray. I don’t need it but I can’t or won’t get rid of it. I just keep it boxed up.

            So every day I claim a small victory over stuff by not opening some boxes. Open it and the stuff has me by the throat. Leave it alone and I am in control. It feels good to refuse to allow some of this stuff to force me to find a place for it in the house.

            Stuff turns the tables on me though when I start looking for something I cannot find. Perhaps the missing item is in one of those boxes I keep ignoring. 

            Take my sermons, for instance. I have about 50 good sermons that I cannot find, sermon notes and complete manuscripts of many sermons. Where they are, I don’t know.

These sermons are lost in six or eight boxes of my papers.

            Can I preach without them? Sure. But I want to find them nonetheless. I put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into those sermons and I want them back in my clammy hands.

            That these old sermons are lost presents a theological dilemma. Has God allowed me to lose them so I will be forced to write new ones? Are they lost so that people will not have to endure hearing them again?

            Did I throw them out by accident? I discarded tons of papers on the way out of Opelika. For about two weeks I turned my paper shredder on and left it on as I disposed of voluminous files that would no longer be needed by me or my successor. Did I shred my own precious sermons?

            I don’t know. And if I find them, will that mean that God wants me to preach all of them again?  Or will God simply let this old war horse find them so that I can cling to them like a child clasping his security blanket? I will settle for that if I have to.

            But I intend to find those sermons. Then I will organize them. This may take a year or two, but so what? By the time I am 72 I should have everything unpacked and systematized.

            Then I will be ready to go somewhere and preach a 50-night revival. Every night I dream about invitations pouring in and having to hire a bevy of secretaries to handle all the mail. As Billy Graham slows down, I will be flying all over the world with a full head of steam.

            If that doesn’t pan out, then perhaps I can find a church where I could spread the pain of those sermons out over 50 Sundays. I could preach one each Sunday, with two weeks off for vacation, while the pastor takes a year’s sabbatical.

            This is such a good plan that I hope Dr. Robert Schuler reads this column. He deserves some time off, and I believe I would enjoy preaching in the Crystal Cathedral for a year.

            That is another discovery I have made about retirement. There is some time to dream, even to fantasize.

            But actually not as much time as you might imagine. My daydreaming gets bumped off the radar screen constantly by that never-ending “Honey Do” list.

            Right now Mom has me looking for our American flag. We have one, somewhere. But last week I could not find it. So we are planning ahead. Before next July 4th we will find that dear old flag and unfurl it in our front yard.

            Ah, yes, the joyous discoveries of retirement!