Before starting our discussion of retirement, we began with a very basic question: Why do you work? There were, as expected a variety of answers. Work gives our lives a sense of purpose and a feeling of being useful and it allows us to use the talents that God has instilled in us. We derive a part of our identity from the work we do and we find the work stimulating to our lives. Then there is the very practical reason that we need to earn money to support ourselves and our families.
In a previous discussion we had talked about whether we felt called to be physicians and we reconfirmed that feeling during this evenings discussion. If so, then what is our attitude toward retirement? Is it a rejection of God’s calling? Are we as Christians even supposed to consider retiring?
All of these questions raised a prolonged discussion. We started out with a description of what society seems to picture as the life of a retiree. Most of that picture revolves around days of leisure with no responsibilities or work to be done. This is often the life promulgated in advertisements and TV shows of various sorts. Yet God has clearly intended us to do work (Genesis 2:15) and to be continuously serving Him and advancing his Kingdom. It was pointed out that there is only one passage in the Bible (Numbers 8:26) that even mentions retirement. In that passage the Levite priests are told that they must retire at the age of 50 and work no longer. But even in that passage it urges the older Levites to continue to assist their younger brothers. It was agreed that following society’s dictum on retirement is a sure way to lose your sense of value and purpose. Although we may sense a need to lay down our calling to be physicians we are always called into some other purpose and way to serve God’s kingdom.
We discussed the various reasons that members of the group would consider retirement. Among those reasons are the sense that we might be getting too old to physically accomplish the tasks. Some admitted to not being as “sharp” as they had been. There was a mutual agreement that too often physicians stay too long in their role and are deemed less effective, if not dangerous, providers. All of us want to avoid becoming that person. Some mentioned that health issues may wear us down and generate a need to step away from our careers. Others related the sense that is the duty of older physicians to step aside at some point and allow the younger, more energetic physicians and surgeons to take our place at the top of the medical latter, so to speak. Lastly, one member of the group admitted he felt that after many years of serving as a physician that he simply did not want to “do this any longer.” We then came to a conclusion that all of these are valid reasons and the feelings that were being expressed were not just arising from our human side but it is the Spirit within us tugging us in a new direction.
We then shared what those of us who are reaching this point in our lives might do once we do retire from medicine. There was an outpouring of thoughts and plans some of which are well formulated and others that are still just a notion. All of these those however had a unifying characteristic – they all include a way to continue to serve God’s people and to serve his Kingdom in some way. We completed the evening by summing up what a God-directed retirement looks like. It looks like a person seeking God’s guidance, trusting that God will direct each person to a valuable way to serve and find satisfaction. We will be directed to use our gifts and trust that God will grant us long life to serve him in ways we have never had time to do before.