Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
It’s tough trying to
practice what I have been preaching for years
Now that I
no longer preach somewhere every Sunday, I have had a chance to look again at
what I preached to others before I retired.
I have to
admit that some of it is easier to proclaim than it is to practice it on a
daily basis. I will give you a few examples.
For years I
gave this advice: “Learn to start over each new day with fresh energy, hope,
-- when you have a job and folks who expect you to be some place every day. But
when you wake up with a headache and nowhere to go, you are tempted to say,
“I’ll start over tomorrow.”
enthusiasm tend to spring from being needed, and the conviction that people
need what you have to offer. When you are suddenly severed from that sense of
worth, hope and enthusiasm seem to evaporate.
By the way,
I have had enough syrupy advice from other retired folks who smile and say,
“You will love being retired; it’s wonderful.” If you feel like telling me
that, then don’t write, don’t call, don’t e-mail me, and don’t stop me on the
needs to tell the truth about retirement. There is a lot about it that simply
does not feel good. One of the first feelings you have is that you have been
removed involuntarily from the work force and placed on a shelf. It is frankly
hard to get adjusted to that.
say, “Now you will be able to do some of those things you have never had the
freedom to do, some of the things you have always wanted to do.” What the devil
does that mean?
have little appeal to a fellow like me, who was already doing what he wanted
most to do.
But I have
honestly asked myself what it is that I have always wanted to do. Not too many
things came to mind, but one did – my wife and I have always wanted to take a
train ride through the
about that for a minute, like we did. First it costs an arm and a leg. Then you
may have to travel with cranky people, perfect strangers you may wish you had
eating on a moving train. I would have to wear a rubber suit to stay dry
because of the coffee and tea I would be spilling all over myself. My hands
shake enough when I am standing still on solid ground.
I try to talk myself into taking that train ride, there will be a story in the
paper about two passenger trains having a head-on collision. Then my
imagination takes over and I can see myself, cut and bleeding, crawling through
the snow, amidst the wreckage of tangled steel and dead bodies, trying
desperately to find Dean.
thoughts dampen quickly my desire to board that magic train.
thinking, you say? Sure it is. More fear than faith? You nailed it. That is
what I think too, especially when I remember that I used to tell people in my
captivating sermons: “Greet each new day with positive expectations for the
stopped believing that? No, absolutely not. All I am saying is that practicing
that kind of faith daily is more difficult in retirement than it was before.
realize why some of the retired people who used to listen to me preach often
had that “glazed over” look in their eyes. I guess they were thinking that
their dear preacher had a lot to learn.
I do have a
lot to learn – especially about how to handle and embrace retirement. And I
plan to do it. I intend to do it well.
Do not, I
repeat, do not feel sorry for me. I am not groveling in self-pity. I will have
none of that. I am the last fellow on earth with a reason to complain. I am
blessed. I had the great privilege of staying alive during 50 years of
ministry! I am deeply grateful for all that has been.
But I am a
realist. I refuse to accept glib statements about how much I will “love”
retirement. For some of us, retirement is a wild horse that has never been
In my teen
years I broke a horse that had never been ridden. I had to teach her to accept
the steel bit of a bridle. In time I subdued her stubbornness, so much that I
could ride her without a bridle or a saddle. She became a gentle horse.
Now I must
bridle and saddle this retirement horse. She may throw me a time or two. But,
by the grace of God, I will break her. Then I will not gallop ahead, but ride
gently into the unknown, facing each new day not with fear and skepticism, but
with fresh energy, hope, and enthusiasm.
I will do
it, but what I am learning just now is that it is much easier to talk about it
than it is to do. Still, this horse I will ride.