It has been a year since I retired. There is only one word to describe it: SWEET.
I looked at my TO DO list and saw what is left undone and they are: Use Skills Future Fund, CPF Inquiry, Look at camera Fujifilm xs10 manual, Paint all ceilings (one ceiling left – the biggest one), Set up Pay Now. Twenty four of the listed items have been done and many, many more that were not listed. It’s been sweat, not sweet.
I treated the year as a sabbatical I never had in forty years of pastoral work. My sabbaticals were from three to six months. I longed for a “biblical” one year sabbatical. My first was a short sabbatical in 2000 when I attended conferences with Pastor Lawrence Koo and Andrew Khoo at the Toronto Airport Church, Willow Creek Church, and Brooklyn Tabernacle Church. On the second three months sabbatical I mainly learned to fish – literally. The third one was six months and the most fruitful: I was 35 days in a prayer retreat in Chiangmai. The most recent one was three months and I did the Camino Ignaciano, another meaningful retreat.
When I retired as the senior pastor, I felt I had to stay away from church so that the new pastor in charge of English congregation can settle in with ease as the new leader. Thankfully this period coincided with Covid-19 and made staying away less painful. Church services were just a few clicks away every Sunday. Initially, I thought six months was sufficient. Near the end of that period, I decided to extend it to a year.
Rest for the body and soul
It was a good year of sweet rest. I listened much more to my body and paid attention to its needs. I am healthier now than before I retired. I could sleep-in most days and sleep came easily for me, so I felt very rested. Thankfully, I did not have to force myself into some regime of strict exercise or diet. After all, I enjoyed outdoor sports activities and, without gritting my teeth, health was a natural outcome. In addition, being extricated from pastoral cares and burdens also freed the soul to rest and this is so good for health, and so sweet.
The art of relish
During retirement, I could do the things I enjoyed most. I went back to blogging and writing and am currently working on two ebooks for distribution (pray for me). I blogged more regularly than before and have seen a return of readership. I have read more widely: novels, thrillers, non-fiction and others. I have returned to leisure cycling and hiking, but could not return to tennis because I had tennis elbow the first time I did. I am also learning photography and joining my wife in a new sport called pickle ball.
Family time had expanded and contracted. For over a year my daughter was working remotely and stayed with us and that was such a joy, and my sons and their families came back from overseas. My grandchildren were fun to have around whenever they came by my home. But now they have gone to the US for work though it’s a comfort that we still have a son and his wife around. The nest is empty but my wife and I have much more time together and this is also a privilege to treasure and enjoy as we are in our mid-60s and only God knows how much time left we have together. Retirement is sweet with no working hours hindering our full enjoyment of God’s gifts of family and pleasurable activities.
Intimacy and friendships
The most delightful and fruitful of all activities was simply time spent on fellowship with God. I loved prayer, reading, journaling, and having the luxury of time to slow down and be quiet before God. I was worried that my life of prayer would taper off when I retired, but it was not so. I still made prayer a priority even though there were no sermons to preach, nor decisions to make, nor people problems to grapple with, nor emotional turbulence to process. Part of this delight was reading Christian books that nourished my soul, and theological stuff that stretched me intellectually. I could also go on a prayer retreat albeit locally.
Another delight is my continued fellowship with pastor friends, some retired, some not. I continued fellowship with individual pastors as well as small group of pastors, including a recent addition: some pastors from Ministers Fellowship International, Singapore. I am also blessed to be a part of a small Catholic community that organizes caminos (journeys) and prayer retreats.
Did I still preach during the past year? Yes, I did. I took a four-month hiatus, and then began to preach after that, but only occasionally in the English and deaf congregations, and mostly in pre-recorded services, which I have gotten used to! I enjoyed the lighter preaching schedule as you have more time to to conceive and gestate and carry a sermon before delivery.
With the recent news of a new strain found in Africa, called Omicron, and which WHO viewed as a “variant of concern”, I pray that the current move back to on-site vaccinated services will not falter but continue to bring God’s people together.
“Lord, have mercy. Waves upon waves of infection have touched so many nations and our tiny island. Stretch out you hand to save us. Help us point people to Jesus as the only Hope of the World. Free us from fear, frustration and depression and fill us with new joy and peace that can only be found in YOU! Amen.”
This was how the sabbatical year panned out but I will leave to another blogpost some updates about the near future.