One of the things I contemplate at times is: Where will God cause me to serve when I retire? What will this next phase of life’s journey, if I am blessed to experience it, look like, feel like and how will it grow me?
Titus chapter two provides a mini job description for older women. I find verses three to five a challenge to our cultures’ trend to viewing retirement as being a reward and time for self only. I am inspired to consider what “being reverent” might look for me. I am cautioned about my behaviour. I am challenged to consider what “to teach what is good” looks like for my context. And that to not “malign” the word of God is so valuable in our witness to others.
I am also reminded of 1 Timothy chapter five. Whilst I am not a widow, in our generation most widows are older women. I am inspired to consider if I am “living for pleasure”. More in line with the intension of this passage is care for our family members in need. So, I can expect my retirement, and life generally, to include caring for relatives in addition to my church family.
These contemplations, however, draw my attention to a current role model of what post-retirement may look like. Heather is a lovely follower of Jesus who has allowed God to provide her with opportunities to serve. She is highly loved in our church family for her commitment, generosity, and enthusiasm. She allows God to use who she is to love her Christian brothers and sisters. This includes her passionate interests and her personality. She is unlikely to be theologically trained or give a dissertation on a theological issue. She is likely to ask God, and those he has provided in the church, to assist her when her skills lack. But, it hasn’t stopped her bravely giving talks at Presbyterian Women’s Association events. She draws upon the gifts within the church family to teach and grow her both in faith and practical skill.
Just to wind back a little, as Heather was not always retired… Actually, retirement probably came a little earlier than expected for Heather and at a time when her health was on the verge of becoming frightenly restrictive. And also, family members’ health demands were growing. She took a day at a time and gradually took on the opportunities that God placed in your way. As a follower of Jesus, she chose to serve and not just to be served. I see it as her commitment to God that has shaped her to live a counter cultural life.
Would she has felt highly skilled for any of the things she took on? I doubt it, in fact she would probably just say she approaches things by giving them a go and being relatable to those she interacts with. When I asked her about what she has been doing over the last four years, she described roles she took on as doing jobs “where she was most needed”. She has a great fit of tasks at present, some well within her skill set, some stretching her. Were the first things she took on inside her comfort zone? Probably not, but she is a willing learner, asks questions and above all, knows she is a child of God like everyone in our church family. Often her roles grew from a smaller role to start with, as she found her abilities fitted well.
So what did that look like? For Heather it was initially the types of things she did before retirement such as serving on Sunday service rosters. As her time become more available, she became involved in other activities like Playtime and youth group. She is now doing a range of activities that includes picking up ladies for weekday bible study group; reading the Bible one-to-one with isolated women, being an advocate, providing practical help for someone with health limitations, coordinating the church Street Fair and Plant Stall and doing maintenance and being part of the management committee for the churches nearby office building. She looks forward seeing the office building getting to the stage where it is used for ministry as well as an income source. The Street Fair is an opportunity to welcome the community to the church family and the plant stall to raise funds for Scripture in Schools. She has also become active in the Presbyterian Women’s Association assisting on the committee locally, regionally and state based where it is needed. She has learnt new skills, built relationships and grown in her understanding of God and His people.
I love that Heather has extended herself in service of God’s family. God has used her and grown her as a person, in response to her being available for Him and us! It is a joy to see her becoming overt about her faith in fun ways, such as bible verse stickers and T Shirts! Her passion that I once saw just for the footy has translated into her love for God and his people. I love that this love has given her the courage to take on new roles that may not have been anything like she would have imagined back when she was working in paid employment. It has shown me that we can not overestimate where God will take us. Heather can’t do mission overseas, she has family to care for here. She can do mission here and be effective for the Gospel in small and big ways. The wider community sees an enthusiastic, caring person who has allowed Jesus to impact their lives, enrich their life and have peace and joy. They see someone who knows where there is help to do her ministry, who knows where there is help through difficult times. She draws upon Him and the church family she serves.
So as I consider what retirement from paid employment might look like for me, I am reminded that we don’t retire as a Christian! I look to people like Heather to see that God provides us with ministry opportunities; a church family to love and everything we need to live life to the full. I look to Heather and am reminded of our greater hope to eternity with all our church family worshiping our Lord