Today I met with the head of the school where I have worked for 31 years, and we agreed that he would announce my retirement at a meeting in a few days. Gulp! This moment which I have anticipated for years is almost here. The fact that the announcement is entirely at my initiative does nothing to take away the wobblies – nor does the statement from almost everyone I know that I will love retirement and never look back. Though he did hold out the possibility of my working on the farm during the growing season, the fact is, my life is going to dramatically change – and I want to consider the implications in Christian terms.
The Bible is filled with people who went through transitions, often having to do with growing older and failing to end well. Many of them had years of faithful service, but as they grew older they gradually derailed spiritually, or had one major breakdown which destroyed all their years of effort. We see the same pattern today – politicians, movie stars, sports heroes like Joe Paterno who died yesterday. Decades of accolades washed away in the final moments of life. Shakespeare got it right - "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” And he even titled a play, “All’s Well that Ends Well.”
Last summer I visited my daughter in New York City, and as we wandered the Greenwich Village streets, we came upon a small store selling one unique product – salt. Their shelves were filled with salts of all colors, and flavors, mined or filtered from mountains and oceans around the world. But they had one unifying quality – they were “finishing salts” – not something to be added, blended and diluted during the cooking process, but a wonderful seasoning to be added at the end – bringing out the best in the dish being prepared, and adding a unique richness. The dish would be diminished without the finishing salt’s transformative presence.
That’s what I want to be – a finishing salt! I know that to accomplish such a final purpose, I must start and end with God. I know that His strength is made perfect in my weakness, and I am promised that I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. What an encouragement to the faithful as we grow older. I was talking about this with my Bible study leader last week, and she said it is important in retirement to “be” – to allow oneself time to meditate, to dwell in the holy place – and not to feel a compulsion to remain busy and constantly outwardly fruitful. Wise words. I am sure I will hear many more. As always, the Bible says it best: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.”