One thing most blokes face in retirement is the fact that, not only has their life changed, but it has all the potential to become meaningless. This problem first happens about 6 months into a new retirement life. For the first 6 months there is plenty to do and you have the opportunity to do what you like when you like. It’s like being on holidays. Then you begin to ask questions about the meaning of what you are doing or not doing.
It’s a Relief
Retirement is a great relief for some people who have found as they got older it became increasingly difficult to do all that was expected. For others it is a new beginning because at last they get to do what they always wanted to do. Others get to travel (while the money lasts), some volunteer and get involved in helping others. Some blokes get involved with their family and find child minding or fixing stuff fills in their day. But whatever the situation you are in there will sometimes be the feeling that something is missing. It may not be a new feeling because in our culture there is often a lack of purpose and a sense of fulfilment.x
The Main Issue
As I sat in church on Easter Sunday, the preacher pointed to a bible verse, that I think, helps explain this issue. He only mentioned it in passing but it struck me that this was a serious issue for retired blokes. That verse is in the book of Ecclesiastes. The whole book is summed up in the second verse of the first chapter.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
Now that’s not the most inspiring opening line in any book I’ve read. And I’m not suggesting that he is specifically writing about retirement! But chapter 3 seems to make a lot of sense with me at least. It starts off with the statement “there is a time for every purpose under heaven.” You probably know that line from the Seekers song. Then in verse 11 it says…
He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
That Changes Everything
The thing that struck me is that, if this is true, and we all have eternity in our heart, it means we are wired up to do something that makes an eternal difference. That’s the only way we can find real meaning and purpose. And that puts a different pressure on our choices about what we need to do in retirement.
You can for example, decide to spend a lot of time cruising the world. I know, I’ve done that in the BC years – before covid. I’ve been tempted to go somewhere again since you can get a last minute cruise for reasonably cheap prices. The problem is, as good as it is to cruise to great places and see wonderful views, it probably doesn’t have much meaning in eternity. Whether you see it or not it will still be there. In fact, if all it does is make me feel good it won’t help with our feelings of meaninglessness.
Cruise With Purpose?
Of course, you can take a cruise that fulfils an eternal purpose as Bob did here. You can join the crew on one of the Mercy Ships and see the world – but probably not the Western World. But these cruises are not to the brilliant destinations you think about when you talk about cursing.
Now I’m not saying that cruising is not enjoyable. I’m not even saying it is a waste of time. But for it to be meaningful in eternity, I think it requires us to find ways of making it meaningful. For me the best cruise we have taken was a part of the “Footsteps of Paul” tour we took a few years ago. We spent time in Ephesus, Corinth, Thessaloniki, Crete and Athens and saw the places I’d read about since I was a child. Places the apostle Paul wrote about. I now know much more about the geography of the New Testament and often picture a place I am reading about.
Think About Your Choices
So next time someone suggests you do something, try asking the questions “what difference will this make in eternity?” If the answer is none – find something else to do. That applies equally to gardening, fixing stuff, volunteering, child care and all those other things people want us to do when we retire. I do not believe we were designed just to indulge ourselves in life or retirement. My heart tells me there must be more to life than that!
The thing is, sometimes I find real meaning in music, sometimes in visiting other in hospital, often in church, sometimes in discussions with friends and usually in feeding the poor in our pantry service. I have the advantage of being a part of a church. Our pastor often speaks about meaning in life. And the church gives me opportunities to do things that are meaningful. Sometimes I have to push myself to get involved. But I do so because I’ve found that is the only way I will do something with more meaning than sitting on the lounge and thinking about how terrible the world is!
You Are Important to God.
You were planned by God for a purpose and that purpose means making an eternal difference in the world. He did not intend you to become self obsessed or self indulgent. There is more to life and the world is actually much bigger than you!
So don’t waste your life pursuing meaningless tasks and trying to fill that eternal shaped hole in your heart. Ecclesiastes end with this…
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
I think he is saying you need to find what Gods plan are for your life and make it happen. So, why are you just sitting there – get up and do something!