Retirement or Transition

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

The United Methodist Church has a mandatory retirement age for pastors.  The age was 70 when I had to retire eight years ago.  They have now moved the age to 72.  My brother George Mathison will be retiring this June from the Auburn United Methodist Church where he has served for 26 years.  In talking with him and others, I have been re-addressing some thoughts on retirement.  Retirement can be good or bad.

The word “retirement” does not occur in the Bible.  If retirement is viewed as a time when you quit working, then you will be in trouble.  People who are accustomed to working, then retire and go home and “sit down” often don’t live very long. 

Retirement creates many changes in lifestyle.  One wife defined retirement as “twice as much husband on half as much money!”  Someone told about his grandfather who for forty years put in long hours on his job.  He was curious about how his grandfather was filling his days since his retirement.  The grandson asked, “How has life changed?”  His granddad was a man of few words, but replied, “Well, I get up in the morning with nothing to do, then I go to bed at night with it half done.”

There’s a term being used today called “phased retirement.”  Instead of “cold turkey” withdrawal from the workplace, many people are negotiating work arrangements that include fewer hours, special projects, time flexibility, and the ability to work at home.  People who continue working seem to do much better emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Nearly half of human resource professionals surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management said that “workers are being offered reduced hours or part-time positions.” reports that 37% of middle income Americans making between $25,000-$100,000 say they expect to stay on the job until they die.  A study conducted by Wells Fargo indicates that 34% say they expect to work until they are at least 80 years old.  This is up from 25% in 2011. 

Anthony Mancinelli has been cutting hair since he was 12 years old, and he has no plans to retire 93 years later!  He has been recognized by the Guinness World Records as the planet’s oldest barber.  Recently he celebrated his 105th birthday in New Windsor, New York.  He is a beloved fixture at the town’s Fantastic Cuts salon.  He still drives to work, cuts his own hair, and works five days a week.  Mancinelli said, “I don’t get tired.  I’m going to keep working.”  His 79-year old son, Robert, says his father is a force of nature, admitting, “He’s in better shape than I am.”

Chester Arthur Reed retired recently at 95.  He ended his career without taking a single sick day!  He attributed his ability to work every day to a diet of watermelon, alkaline water and an onion sandwich with mayonnaise.

People ask me, “Are you retired?”  I’m not an expert in etymology, but the word “retired” could be “re-tired.”  That would mean that you are tired again.  Placing “re” in front of a word means that something is considered again, such as revisit, renegotiate, renew, retrace, rehydrate, etc.  I think the word “tired” with “re” in front of it means we need to be active enough with something to make us a bit tired. 

Instead of the word “retirement,” I suggest we replace it with the word “transition.”  Retirement is not an end, but a transition.  I believe that “transition people” are one of the greatest assets to the Church today.  They have more experience, time, resources, wisdom, etc. that God can use.

I never dreamed that transition could be as fulfilling as I am experiencing it.  I know my brother George will experience the same thing.  The transition is from one place that God has been using him to another place where God will use him in a bigger way!

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