My counselor is “retired.” He is the former director of his counseling agency, but maintains a part time caseload of clients. Last week he told me, “I have never been busier in my whole career. And I’m retired!”
He shared how unique this present moment is. “No one alive has been through this before. In my career I witnessed Vietnam, the Civil Rights movement, 9/11, and the 2008 economic crash. But this is different. I’ve never seen as much anxiety in nearly 50 years of work.”
Maybe this is why more people are retiring. It’s just too much. I hear about an exodus in the workforce. Teachers, health professionals, and first responders come to mind. There are vocations on the front lines that are so exhausting that if you ever thought of tapping out, now is the time.
Last week I heard a talk by James K.A. Smith. In it, he referenced a letter between St. Augustine and a governor in north Africa named Boniface. Augustine is one of the giants of the Christian church. His work 1,600 years ago reverberates today. As a governing official, Boniface was frustrated at the chaos and turmoil of society in his day.
Boniface wrote to Augustine that he just wanted to “retire.” He planned to retreat to a monastery and live a quiet, peaceful life. It was his “parachute plan” to escape the burden of his day. In a pastoral spirit, Augustine wrote back.
We ought not live ahead of time with the saints and martyrs . . . Man your station.” - Augustine
What did Augustine mean by this? You cannot choose to live “ahead of time,” in the future. It is not yet time to live in the heavenly state of the faithful gone before. Nor can you live in the past in some nostalgic museum of a bygone era. This is your God-ordained time. Live in it.
I admit to looking at my retirement account in the last couple years. “Can I be done yet?” (I have at least a couple decades to go.) But these words echo in my ear. “Man your station.” God saw fit to bring me into the world in 1978 so that I could be of service in 2020-21.
It takes me to St. Paul in I Thess. 5. “Now concerning the times and the seasons . . . let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (I Thess. 5:1,6).
It reminds me of Revelation and the call to “patient endurance.” The Lord Jesus compels his people to “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
This is an age for action. Not for passive retreat. We dare not escape to some leisurely country club existence for shuffleboard at 10:00 and cocktails at 4:00. Our King is already out ahead of us, leading and attacking on the front lines. And I consider abandoning my post? God, who called us to live in this era, will supply what we need to work in it.
The question is not, “When can I retire?”
The question is: “What is my station? What responsibility has God given me in the present tense?”
I will labor at my post until he calls me to another or calls me home. Only then, in time to come, will I gladly join the saints and martyrs.