I was forewarned that the loss of identity would be a tough loss to manage. After all, for 40 years I served in the same church as a church worker, associate pastor and then senior pastor. My sense of identity must surely have been so entwined and defined by my job and role as the senior pastor of World Revival Prayer Fellowship. I was wary and anticipated some struggle. But I was surprised that the transition into retirement was so smooth and sweet. It had to be God’s grace.
HELD WITH HANDS OPENED
Thankfully, I was never enamoured with the senior pastor’s job, role or title in the first place. I never held it with a tightened fist but with an open hand. I was willing to let go of it when push comes to shove. It felt nice to be addressed as, or referred to, and deferred to as senior pastor but the weight of responsibility and pressure that comes with it rapidly evaporates all the niceness. It was an onerous calling. This push factor eased and facilitated the letting go process required in retirement. It did not require a hammer to open my hands. I felt relief to let go of this role that is as close and all-embracing as my skin.
TEMPORAL VERSUS ETERNAL
During the six months since my retirement, I did not find myself grasping for a new role to fill up the loss in identity. I am still a husband to my wife, a father to my two grown up sons (and their wives) and a daughter, and a grandfather to my two grand-daughters. My new ministry role is still being etched out. I let God determine what is in this new chapter of life. I wait patiently as He helps me to locate avenues and platforms for my teaching gift, whether through guest preaching or writing or producing video content on YouTube. I take small steps and movements towards these God- invitations.
However, circumstances can change and these are at best temporal roles and not stable, unchangeable or permanent. God has graciously provided me an unshakeable and eternal anchor on which to rest my sense of identity, an identity that is based on God’s adoption of me as his child. Since I was born again, I have been aware of my identity as his child. However, the sense or conviction of my identity deepened over the many years as the Spirit testifies to my spirit that I am deeply loved, His beloved child (Romans 8:16) despite all the trials and tests, when everything that happened around me said quite the opposite, that He was not treating me like I was His child. This deeply anchored sense of being His beloved child is so tightly secured that when temporal roles like being the senior pastor was removed, the waves and currents of people’s opinion or treatment could not move me much from where I am anchored. For this I am grateful to the longstanding assuring work of my faithful friend, the Holy Spirit.
It is a grace, something I do not deserve, and I am so grateful to the Lord for helping me transition this loss of identity that many have experienced after retirement. I have found the assuring work of the Spirit invaluable for this transition. It is something you too can experience if you would sit in quiet before the Lord, and cultivate a growing awareness of His presence with you in silence.
“Lord, as I wait patiently in silence before You, heighten my sense of awareness of Your presence and movements within me – in what I sense, feel and imagine. Let me feel Your assurance and love again and again. Let me know I am Your beloved child in whom You are well pleased.”
What are your experiences when you retired? Share with us lessons you learned that helped you navigate the loss of identity that accompanies retirement.