Purposeful retiring—at any age
Whether we’re dreading retirement or approaching it with a heart full of cherished hopes and dreams, our concept of it is generally centered around one thing: removing ourselves from work. The word typically refers to leaving one’s job; its synonyms, however, include seclusion, loneliness, isolation, privacy, obscurity—a state which may leave something to be desired!
Thankfully, there is a broader sense of retirement that is worth considering. When the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, retreated from society for about three years following her discovery, she said it was “to ponder my mission, to search the Scriptures, to find the Science of Mind ... and reveal the great curative Principle,—Deity” (Retrospection and Introspection, pp. 24–25 ). She retired for the sole purpose of going up higher in her understanding of God, the divine Father-Mother of man. This type of retirement enabled her to withdraw—many times over—from cultural restrictions on women and from a myriad of beliefs that hold back humanity. Exploring the spiritual landscape, she grew in her understanding of the scriptural explanation of God as ever-present divine Love, and she saw that there is a law of Love in operation. This law of Love fully directs and governs man and the whole of creation.
This understanding did not occur all at once. It dawned in consciousness, was carefully and prayerfully considered, and was then applied with healing results: She repeatedly proved that the divine laws of God are always available and able to liberate the sinning, sick, and dying.
Through earnest study of the Bible, she learned from the examples of its faithful people, particularly Christ Jesus, how to retreat from worldly concerns to gain higher views of divinity. Mrs. Eddy says of his example, “Jesus prayed; he withdrew from the material senses to refresh his heart with brighter, with spiritual views” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 32 ).
We know from the Gospels that to retreat from the clamor of torment and hatred, Jesus went up into a mountain, into a ship, and after the last supper, into the garden of Gethsemane. These moments of withdrawal were not a retirement from care and duty; they were moments of selfless surrender to God’s will in order to gain strength and inspiration for his work of teaching and healing and, in the case of Gethsemane, for his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. He withdrew to go up higher in his understanding and demonstration of God.
In the Glossary of Science and Health, Gethsemane is defined in its spiritual sense as “patient woe; the human yielding to the divine; love meeting no response, but still remaining love” (p. 586 ). Jesus showed that the law of Love is universal, now. There is no waiting to be free over a period of time. What a blessing it is to know you do not have to wait to be of a certain age before retiring or retreating from adversity!
We never retire from God, Life, and His goodness, vitality, omnipresence, and eternality.
And if you are past what is commonly considered retirement age, there’s no law that says you have to cease working! One woman, well past that age, was often told she should close the private school she owned and retire. Yet she felt a strong commitment to the children’s education. Understanding that divine Life, God, is pure, perfect, and infinite in scope and capacity, and that we fully and eternally express this Life, she was never burdened by a sense of heavy labor. As the definition of retire suggests, she did retreat, but not from her relation to God. She retreated from the prescribed customs or social mores of her day. She refused to agree with being too old, too frail, or needing to accommodate the “sunset years.” Instead, she relied on God-derived, God-endued vitality, well-being, strength, and productivity. She kept teaching and running her school for many years.
Whether or not we retire in the conventional sense, there is no retreat from Life, because we forever express the Life that is God as our very own nature. On this basis, we can overcome limitations of material thinking and living. We can see that retirement isn’t based on a calendar or a geographical change, and needn’t be characterized by unwanted seclusion, solitude, loneliness, isolation, or obscurity. Heaven forbid! Its blessing is in eschewing material-mindedness and a mortal estimate of things. Through the study of the Christian Science textbook—Science and Health—and the Bible, these new views of God and man come to light. Then, these spiritual views of eternal life change thought and thereby change our experience. It’s no longer about creating a new life after a certain age but about discovering and defending our right to experience more of our God-given life all along the way. We don’t have to wait for a certain season to enjoy life. With each new view of our lives, we can have a fresh experience, make progress, continue to contribute, and discover health and healing.
However many changes we make in our lives, we never retire from God, Life, and His goodness, vitality, omnipresence, and eternality. Our calling—our purpose, our holy mission—is always ripe for fulfillment. Through prayer, we can learn how to set aside personally conceived plans for our lives to discover God’s plan of infinite good, well-being, and service. We can profit from the ever-present divine Love that sustains us in challenging moments. And whenever we are victorious in putting down limitations under any guise, we are proving what’s true for all of humanity. Mrs. Eddy wrote, “We have nothing to fear when Love is at the helm of thought, but everything to enjoy on earth and in heaven” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 113 ). Then, retiring enables us to more deeply appreciate this lesson—the joy of eternity.
Guest Editorial Writer