Preston Hollow readers, this is my last worship column. I officially retire at the end of this month, having completed more than 19 years at Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church and 41 years of pastoral ministry. It was a journey that started in Bucks County, Pa., but almost half of it has been here in Dallas. Lest you think I plan to languish on the vine, in September I will begin a new chapter as the Louis H. and Katherine S. Zbinden Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Ministry and Leadership at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Austin. I have always loved assisting in the formation of new church leaders, and I look forward to this new challenge with relish. I will teach three days a week in Austin, but we’ll still be happy residents of Dallas the rest of the time.
I have told friends that, as I have approached retirement, I could write a book about all the advice I have received from friends who already have retired. What I’ve noticed is that I have heard the whole gambit of reaction, ranging from “You won’t like it” to “It’s the best time in my life.” Hearing all these comments has led me to reflect on what makes for a healthy retirement. So for you younger readers who one day (believe it or not) will come to this place in life, I offer a few nuggets of wisdom.
Don’t tie your ego to your career. I have loved being a pastor, and my people have always treated me better than I deserve. But I have always resisted being put on a pedestal or seeing my ministry as the sole source of my self-worth. When you leave your career, you need to know who you are now and feel good about it.
• Have hobbies and make time for them. I’ve noticed that those who have no interests other than work have a hard time making the transition. Hopefully you will nurture more than one hobby; after all, playing golf seven days a week sounds to me like a frustrating life.
• Nurture enjoyment and delight. People who do well in retirement have a long list of things they enjoy — like spending time with family, exercise, road trips, writing and reading. If you easily find delight in each day, you’ll not suffer from boredom.
• Keep a sense of purpose. So many good causes need volunteers. Find a need that you are passionate about, and volunteer your time. Many retired folks I know give their time tutoring, teaching ESL, and working for North Dallas Shared Ministries, CitySquare, the North Texas Food Bank or the Stewpot. A day is always better if you can end it with the satisfaction of making a difference in someone else’s life.
• Deepen your relationships. If career robbed you of time for spouse, children, grandchildren and friends, use your time to renew your connections with the important people in your life.
• Find a renewed connection with God. Faith, after all, is the source of eternal youth, hope and vitality. The prophet Joel wrote, “Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” Every time in life carries with it the opportunity for deeper connection.
For what it’s worth, that is what I’m learning. It has been a joy and a privilege to offer you these monthly reflections. May God be good to you in all life’s seasons.