Work

Nine Thoughts on Retirement

Today is a milestone for me—my last day on the job. I am retiring after 21 years of service at Wells Fargo and 49 years of working. I received a paycheck today and two weeks from today will be my last paycheck. That will feel weird.

My first jobs were neighborhood labor jobs of shoveling snow, cleaning out garages, pulling weeds and lawn service. Dad’s view was that if you wanted something there was a way to earn it. I became a little capitalist at the age of 13. My first job working for a company was at the Witterstaetter wholesale greenhouses in Delhi Ohio. I was paid a farm labor rate of $ 1.00 per hour. I hauled dirt, planted cuttings, and delivered flowers in a 1965 Ford Econovan.

Dad had us pay our way to college and during those years, I sold shoes, loaded newspaper bundles, worked for American Airlines as a campus sales representative, and worked at Monsanto Chemical Company for four summers.

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Summer Daze

Kuckles Down by Norman Rockwell

Chalk it up to the latent truancy that exists in parent and child alike, but I’ve been less than motivated these last few weeks. From the middle of May onward, I found myself slogging through the final projects, class picnics, and end-of-school year programs. I bought the ice cream, clapped for the perfect attendance awards, and sniffled through fifth-grade graduation. When the last bell rang, my kids weren’t the only ones ready to be done.

No more lunches to pack…
No more homework to muddle through…
No more waking up in the middle of the night to remember what I forgot…
At least for the next 104 days or so.

I grew up in a teacher’s home; in fact, it was a two-teacher home. Both my mother and father spent their days schooling future generations in the finer points of history and science. For our family, life existed in discreet increments of 9 weeks that gradually worked their way toward the ultimate goal of summer vacation. Dad often had to take odd jobs during his months off to make ends meet, but occasionally, every so often, there was a glorious summer when we had enough. He could stay with us, tend his garden, putter in his orchard, and simply enjoy working at home.

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The Dignity and Vanity of Labor

I’ve always preached that all honest work is God-glorifying and that the opportunity to engage in labor and reflect God’s character through it is a great privilege. Over the years, I’ve also emphasized that if you’re doing the work God wants you to do, however “secular” it may be, you shouldn’t stoop to do anything else. Even vocational ministry is a demotion if it’s not what God wants you to do.

As a pastor, these ideas were relatively easy to affirm. The logic is simple. The best thing any man can do at any time is to obey God. Therefore, if God wants him to sell soap, or make pizza, or drive truck, or mop floors, that activity is the best thing he can do. And if that work is best for him, all other work is inferior.

But when you’re post-pastoral, these principles can be a bit harder to hold with conviction—especially if you loved your pastoral work, prepared thoroughly for it for almost a decade, and still believe it’s what you do best. But sometimes even guys with seminary training and clear evidence of giftedness for ministry can find themselves facing clear direction from God to “do something else until further notice.”

And when that happens, they struggle to find meaning and purpose in the work they find to do.

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