No retirement from a bright future
There are a number of ways by which others identify us. Aside from physical characteristics, such as gender, height, weight, eye color, and unique fingerprints, today we have identifying documents in the form of ID cards, drivers’ licenses, social security cards, and passports.
But how do we identify ourselves? An equally important question may be, With what do we most closely identify?
Many people find a sense of identity and purpose from their jobs or careers. This was emphasized to me one day when a fellow co-worker came up to me, after hearing of my pending retirement, and said bluntly, “Where are you going to find your sense of worth?” I told him that my hope was that I had brought something useful to the job and had not let the job define who I was. I have to admit that I have known co-workers who retired and were very unhappy. In fact, they seemed to be somewhat lost, without much purpose or direction in their lives.
My co-worker’s question alerted me to the fears that arise when we identify ourselves with the particular job we are doing. What happens when the job isn’t there anymore? Or we retire? Do we lose our identity or sense of purpose?
What happens when the job isn’t there anymore? Or we retire? Do we lose our identity or sense of purpose?
When I began planning for my retirement, I thought it important to give this transition some thought and prayer. I had spent three decades in my chosen profession and had put much effort and extra time into my work. Rather than just drift into this new phase of my life, I took conscious steps to solidify my understanding of God and my relationship to Him. I wanted to rely on God, the very source of my being, and not on the human opinions or observations of others, for a sense of self-worth and for an understanding of what the future would bring. I wanted to know what divine Mind, God, knows about me, and what is true about His creation, since He knows all there is to know.
In my prayers I acknowledged that there is, in reality, nothing unknown to God, since God is all-knowing, infinite Mind. And because I am God’s reflection, there is nothing unknown to me.
I also gave thought to the fact that each of us, as God’s reflection, is complete and whole, always satisfied and forever productive, forever expressing God. This is our one true spiritual identity, which we can demonstrate at every stage of experience.
I have always found great comfort and assurance in this passage from the Bible: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5, 6). I found this so helpful in lifting any sense of uncertainty about the future. I could trust that whatever lay ahead, it was only good because God is good.
Since my retirement, it’s been demonstrated to me time and again that God is the source of our happiness and fulfillment, and not human circumstances, or titles, or job descriptions. When we think of Christ Jesus, we probably don’t think of him first and foremost as a carpenter. We think of how clearly and compassionately and generously he expressed the Christ, his divine nature, in his daily walk. This is truly our ongoing employment—to glorify God in all that we say and do. In fact, it is our duty and privilege to be forever about our Father’s business and follow Jesus’ example (see Luke 2:49). This is truly the most fruitful and fulfilling work that we can do.
In our demonstration of this eternal employment we have infinite opportunities to utilize our God-given qualities and unique talents. In fact, we express more and more fully the spiritual qualities that make up our spiritual identity and define who we are. Our purpose is, and always has been, to be exactly who we are right now, the sons and daughters of God. There is no higher purpose.
It is our duty and privilege to be forever about our Father’s business.
Upon my retirement, this came into even sharper focus. I embarked on a much more serious and thorough study of Christian Science, and I found that this enhanced every aspect of my life because of the spiritual growth it brought. I found renewed vigor in pursuing interests and hobbies that had fallen away years ago. I remained as mentally and physically active as ever. In fact, I felt even greater energy, stamina, and was in better health. Old friendships and family relationships that had deteriorated or were strained became new again, and were of a much higher quality than before. I found new ways to be helpful to my neighbors and those I came into contact with, and to support them in my prayers and share Christian Science when there was a need.
What a joyous, fulfilling, and satisfying transition this was for me. In fact it was seamless, which surprised some of my co-workers. As my study of the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, had revealed to me, my true identity and purpose had not changed in retirement. Nor had my value diminished.
Whenever we are facing a major change in our life, or venturing into what appears to be uncharted territory, we can rest assured that we have a holy purpose. We can never leave or “retire” from this purpose or divine Love’s plan for us. Within this Love, where we live eternally, there is only good, and this good is permanent and changeless. This is true for each one of us. In the words of a hymn in the Christian Science Hymnal:
In heavenly Love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
(Anna L. Waring, No. 148)
As we gain this trust, we find the confidence we need to go forward, fearlessly.