by Sandy Mayle
As a child, Grandma Bernard had been required to stand awhile each day with her shoulders firmly pressed back against a wall. According to my mom, that posture training explained Grandma’s erect, somewhat imposing bearing. Combined with her usual expression – solemn, bordering on stern – we grandchildren didn’t throw our arms around her or climb up on her lap.
But she had some endearing abilities. She could make the best rolled oats for breakfast. She could drive a stick-shift pickup around our field while we collected hay bales.
And long after her hair had turned white she could bend over, legs straight, and casually put her hands flat on the floor.
Turned out, our starchy Grandma was flexible.
I’m thinking about her flexibility these days because I’ve just entered a new season. My toolmaker husband retired a few weeks ago, and we’ve gone from the rigidity of the workaday world to the slackness of retirement and the constancy of each other’s presence. Much as Dave and I love each other, there’s no denying that our “suppleness” has been tested.
Well before his retirement date, the questions were surfacing in me. Life had hummed along for decades on a set schedule of 5-day workweeks and long hours on my own; was I ready to yield up my daytime autonomy and consider someone else 24/7? I am a freelance writer and lover of solitude and silence; was I prepared for the sharing of space and the uptick in conversation? I cherished my quiet daily rituals – long morning devotions, hours at the writing desk, afternoon tea with a book; was I willing to be made flexible?
The Lord knew I needed some preparation.
So a month before Dave lugged his tools home, God led me to, strangely enough, 2 Corinthians 9. Over the next couple months I immersed myself in the apostle Paul’s message to the church at Corinth regarding the upcoming collection for needy believers in Jerusalem. In short, he urged them to prepare their contribution so they were ready when Titus came for their offering.
These Corinthians were poor, From all indications, dirt-poor. Yet they so wanted to aid the struggling believers that they bent way, way down to the floor of their resources to bring up a generous offering for them. Out of their next-to-nothing, they gave, and they gave gladly.
The Holy Spirit began to show me that the life-change of retirement would ask me to “give,” like those Corinthians, in very real and stretching ways.
“I know about your willingness to help,” wrote Paul. “I brag about you to the Macedonians, saying, ‘Greece has been ready since last year,’ and your enthusiasm has motivated most of them.” (2 Cor. 9:2 CEV).
The Lord spoke to my heart as I read Paul’s words. Was I willing to give? Enthusiastic, even?
On one hand, the Lord knew that I’m naturally cautious and reluctant to overcommit myself and my heart in ways that invite disappointment. That I can be selfish, and slow to relinquish cherished patterns.
On the other hand, I knew – for the Holy Spirit kept pressing it to my mind and heart – that God was offering me grace and coping strategies that would prove more than equal to the challenges of retirement, whether areas of friction, onslaughts of doubt or any other points of need.
I could, then, bring glory and pleasure to God in the way I handled this transition … if I would! The choice was mine to make: willingness and enthusiasm, or reluctance and dread.
Thank God, I chose willingness. And, inspired by the Spirit, I even listed reasons to move toward retirement with genuine anticipation:
- The new season I enter will offer new discoveries, new opportunities and new growth. .
- In the process, I’ll learn new aspects of God through the Spirit’s application of the Word.
- I’ll be privileged to continually prove out God’s supply of grace and powerful promises.
- The Holy Spirit will be there to meet me at every point, offering sufficiency.
- My quiet times (morning prayer, solitary walks, personal retreats, etc.) will become even more precious oases with Lord.
- Dave and I will grow closer as we live out this season together.
- We’ll enjoy a more relaxed, varied lifestyle.
- We’ll form deeper relationships with other retirees in our world.
Today I can say that my anticipation was well-rewarded. God’s grace has truly limbered up my spirit and eased our way into retirement. And I’m certain this grace is available to each of God’s children, whatever the looming life-change.
It’s key to navigating not only retirement, but adjustments in general. And it sure beats reluctance and rigidity.
Sandy is a freelance writer living in Erie, Pa. She loves words, nature, and solitary retreats. Her newest venture is mentoring in the equine therapy program at a nearby horse ranch. She and her husband, Dave, have three sons and three grandchildren.