Retired? It’s not just about growing older, it’s more about growing up!

Couple looking over the hill

I imagined the only way my life would change after I moved out of full-time employment would be that I would have extra time freedom to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle!

And that, meanwhile, my values, beliefs and outlook would keep flowing in the direction they always had. In other words, though my circumstances would change that would not be true of me as a person.

I guess that’s an expectation shared by many. But should it be?

I ask because that’s not the way it’s been for me. Instead, my eyes – and my mind – have been opened to something very different. What I’ve discovered is that life can come in two very distinct phases and best expressed as –

Phase 1 – The earlier years, during which we establish our identity, build a structure of beliefs, education, relationships, career, values and so on. This has been designated as ‘climbing, achieving and performing’.

Phase 2 – The later years, which is when we allow the structures we’ve built in phase 1 to be shaped, changed and filled by new challenges, loss of control, failures, doubts, questions, brokenness, broader horizons.

This description of an upwards and expansive progression perfectly fits my pre and post retirement world.

In short, it’s an acknowledgement that the past – including its tough times – should shape us and equip us to be the kind of people who are useful in a totally different kind of way. By becoming more realistic, more accepting, more sensitive, more relational, more inclusive, more tolerant, more loving, more hopeful, more peace loving, having more time for people.

It is just as well that I made this discovery.

When I came to retirement it took me about 6 months to stop being pretty fed up. My wife’s assessment extends that timescale considerably. But what slowly dawned on me was the extent to which my values had insidiously developed to being mostly about ‘what I was doing’ and ‘how much others valued it – or didn’t’!

This was not what I’d taught others as a pastor and preacher. But it was what I found I’d tended to become and was in direct conflict with those now well-worn words ‘God made us human beings, not human doings’.

But now it’s time for confession. The penny did not totally drop as the result of my own grey matter. If only I were that bright!

Although I had begun to address what was increasingly a tension deep in my soul, the real revelation came from the writings of the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. They’ve had a radical and refreshing impact on my thinking about life, holistic spirituality, God’s Grace and all things related.

And that’s where the main insight about two stages of life comes from. It’s wrapped up in Rohr’s book ‘Falling Upwards’. Here he encourages us to see there to be an upwards and expansive progression to our life – as set out in the two dimensions I’ve described.

Of course it can be somewhat unnerving to realise that change in our later years can – and perhaps should – involve more than our appearance and energy levels. Yet, rather than feeling threatened at such change, why not embrace it.

After all, isn’t this reflected in the words of St Paul – ‘But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely – Galatians 5v23,24 The Message.

Should it not be, as we travel through life, that we find different, and perhaps more age related values emerging? That we move from rigidity, through structure, and onwards to a more fluid and ever expansive way of doing life? To a maturity which tends towards a much more integrative, inclusive and holistic life. One that’s as generous towards others and ourselves as God is towards us.

So, here I am, in my 70’s, and knowing I can no longer ‘do’ all I did. Indeed, I have deliberately stepped away from a lot of my previous ‘doings’. But there are things I want to be focused on in all the situations I find myself in; and in truth I’m no less ‘busy’ than I ever was….which you’ll understand well I’m sure, especially if you are blessed with grandchildren!

I long to ‘be’ more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more tolerant, more open to fresh thinking, more expansive in my theology, more gentle, more marked by humility, more disciplined in my ‘retirement’ than ever I was earlier in my career. And because of Gods outrageous grace, I find I can be! Which is fun, and fulfilling despite my well recognised flaws.

My invitation to you is ‘please join me if you are not here already’. And whatever, be blessed in your own journeys of discovery . . . . .

Stuart Pascall

Stuart has been a Christian communicator, trainer, pastor and more since his early career in the motor trade. His focus has been mostly to challenge churches to think creatively outside its ‘boxes’ and to get more involved in the wider community around them. He sees his expanding family as a joy and privilege. He loves classic cars, astronomy, coast walking and supports Man Utd with a renewed enthusiasm.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife