During lunch with a missionary friend, he asked something along the lines of “How much longer will you continue working? Any plans to fully retire soon?”
I’m grateful for the excellent teams that now largely run the three SMI businesses (the SMI newsletter, SMI Funds, and SMI Private Client), which have given me more freedom of schedule, but I am still involved in business decisions and I still do occasional writing. (The SMI Funds and SMI Private Client are separate, though affiliated, businesses from the SMI newsletter.)
Sometimes, I confess, being completely retired sounds pretty good! 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 take-it-easy “retired person” role models in the Bible. I suppose that’s because Jesus hasn’t called us to a life that’s merely 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’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, but should it be to live a life of ease? Or to serve God in a new capacity in another activity or vocation? 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 the international headquarters for Campus Crusade for Christ (“Cru”). Like all staff, we were volunteers, responding to Bill Bright’s challenge to “Come help change the world!” Mrs. G. was eating alone at the back of the dining room. In a room filled with younger people, her white hair and advanced age stood out. 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 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 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 ordinary people who earnestly make themselves available to Him.
Mrs. G. had come to Cru at the age of 67 as a volunteer to file letters, and stayed on to serve for 26 years! 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 when she moved on from this life in 1990:
“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., along with countless other Christians I’ve known, are role models for “retirement,” investing their remaining energy and creativity in serving our Lord. So, while I am slowing down to accommodate the realities of aging, I continue to stay engaged in the fight.
In 2 Timothy 4, the apostle Paul speaks to us through the centuries, 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).