In the early months of this year, I was looking forward to retirement. I looked forward to being free from the burdens and pressures of pastoral ministry. Forty years in the same church is a lengthy term of service and I do feel weary and tired towards the end. I was also curious to see what my spirituality would look like without ministry to drive or shape it. I want to be a child of God period. So it was something I was anticipating with some relish.
However, recently I have come to notice something of a sadness that seem undetectable, under the radar, like background music in the shopping malls. It is there but I am oblivious to it. Until someone mentions about the music, or I am waiting without any cares, I wouldn’t be aware of the music. This almost imperceptible sadness has stayed unnoticed in me for some time. I even thought it was some kind of spiritual dryness. I am still unsure. I need to further reflect on this with the Lord.
It is highly probable because when anyone experience losses like what happens at retirement – the person goes through the various stages of loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. Like it or not, retirement is a form of loss: loss of the job satisfaction it gives and a shared life with friends and colleagues; loss of respect and appreciation you enjoyed, and a defined role in the community; the loss of income and medical benefits, and a stable rhythm of work, rest and play. I am sure more can be listed (feel free to add to this list in the comment, if you wish).
Last week I had my final staff meeting with the Mandarin congregation(see above picture). Yesterday, I had my final meeting with the English congregation staff. Today, I wrap up my final zoom meeting with the Deaf congregation staff. What is left is the Board of Elders, and the Senior Pastor’s Office meetings. It was like saying “Goodbye” to these places of joy and hope, ambiguity and difficulty. On the whole, more good things happened in these places than bad. So I praise the Lord for the opportunity to serve in this way in “committees”, though I wouldn’t want to be in them in future, unless the Lord insists, which He wouldn’t. Like I told the church, I don’t want to be in the organization chart, but I am still in the organism and community chart.