Sometimes, I confess, retirement sounds pretty good! At age 69, I find myself increasingly attracted to the idea of taking an extended break. The freedom to relax and sleep in. And read. And putter in my den. And hang out with Susie and my family. And generally be shamelessly self-indulgent.
The problem is, though, I can't find any good "retired person" role models in the Bible. I suppose that's because Jesus hasn't called us to a life of eating, drinking, and being merry. Instead, He's planned for us to experience a life filled with satisfaction that comes from knowing and serving Him.
We know we're here for such a limited time, and during that span our focus should be directed toward fitting in with God's plans and accomplishing His purposes. Yes, we might "retire" from a particular job at some point in our 60s, but should it be to live a life of ease? Or would it be to serve God in a new capacity in another activity or vocation? Our attitude should be that, in light of eternity, we have so little time and so much that could be done.
I want to be like Mrs. G.
I remember the first time I noticed her. It was February 1973, and Susie and I were attending three weeks of training for new staff at Campus Crusade for Christ's international headquarters. Like all staff, we were volunteers, responding to Bill Bright's challenge to "Come help change the world!" Mrs. G. was sitting at the back of the dining room, reading and eating her dinner. In a room full of younger people, her white hair and advanced age stood out. In contrast to the spirit of camaraderie which was in the air, she was eating alone. She seemed out of place, and yet appeared to feel at home. I wondered who she was.
Two months later, we had moved our young sons, cat, bird, and various worldly goods across the country to take up our new life as Cru staff. One of the pleasures of my job was the opportunity to work closely with Bill Bright. When I first reported for duty, I was surprised to see her again. It turned out she was Bill's administrative assistant! Her name was Erma Griswold, but it seemed everybody called her "Mrs. G."
She had a wide range of interests and a great sense of humor. I grew quite fond of her as we worked together during that time. She evidenced a strong desire to continue active in the Lord's service for as long as He would permit. Little did either of us know at the time just how long that would be!
If you are wondering if there's life after "retirement," I wish you could have known Mrs. G. You couldn't help but be inspired, and realize that the Lord delights in using everyday, ordinary people who earnestly make themselves available to Him. It's been said that "the greatest ability is availability."
Mrs. G. moved on from this life in 1990. She had come to Cru at the age of 67 as a volunteer to file letters, and stayed on to serve for 26 years! I was happy to hear that she worked productively and with a sharp mind until her very last days — just as she prayed she would. Here is part of the tribute Bill Bright wrote in her honor:
"Few individuals have been a greater inspiration to me than Mrs. Griswold.… Her gracious loving spirit, combined with her outstanding work ethic, enhanced my ministry in a special way.… Her love for our Lord motivated her to work tirelessly. Whenever I would ask her to slow down and take more time for herself, she would reply, 'This is what I enjoy most — reading letters and reports of how God is using this ministry to transform lives through Jesus Christ around the world.'"
Mrs. G. and Bill Bright, along with countless missionaries and pastors we know, are role models for "retirement." So, while I may slow down as needed to accommodate the realities of aging, I expect to stay engaged in the fight. Those who reach retirement age may still have great energy and creativity that could be invested in serving our Lord.
In 2 Timothy, chapter 4, the apostle Paul speaks to us through the centuries, reminding us of the great privilege we have of taking the message of Christ to the world and exhorting us to make the most of our days: "Bring others to Christ. Leave nothing undone that you ought to do.… I have fought long and hard for my Lord, and through it all I have kept true to him….In heaven a crown is waiting for me which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me…. And not just to me but to all those whose lives show that they are eagerly looking forward to his coming back again" (TLB).