A Retyrement Retreat

The misspelling was deliberate: retyrement instead of retirement. With my retirement from being senior pastor of WRPF, I felt a retreat would be necessary to give me the spiritual space and pace to reflect on the past 40 years of pastoral ministry. The way to go forward is to first go backward and process the past. I had already begun reflecting on this for some months but when you are occupied with the stresses of pastoral ministry especially during the Covid 19, your mind is preoccupied and your emotions hide underground and are hardly perceptible. This retreat will help me slow down and free up sufficiently and allow the Lord, His Spirit to surface matters for reflection.

Covid 19 meant my colleagues had to cancel their retreats which they booked at the Seven Fountains, Chiangmai. I had not done any bookings for the year so I did not have the hassle of cancellation. Travel is not possible or viable in the foreseeable future so a retreat overseas is not an option. Even the retreat houses in Singapore were closed. However, I recently heard from friends that they have opened. So I picked a period when I was not doing any preaching or weekly zoom teaching, and applied for some dates. I was glad that the reply was swift and I was able to take five days over a weekend to have time to wait on God in silence.

I am also thankful that my spiritual director, Lance Ng, who has accompanied me on my journey for a few years now, was also available and had a few directees in Lifesprings Spirituality Centre during that period. I was happy to use Zoom for spiritual direction, but since he was available, I was happier it was a live session. We communicate with our whole bodies so its better this way, and he can “read” me more sharply and fully.

I requested a room with an attached bathroom and I must say the room that was assigned to me is spacious and conducive with beautiful views of green foliage. It overlooks Bukit Batok Nature Park. My first apartment was a ten minutes walk from the park and I was very familiar with the whole neighbourhood. While the grounds here are adequate, just a slow walk of ten minutes will bring you to a large park conducive for reflection and prayer, with its many benches and gazebos.

The Centre is a ministry of the Canossian sisters. They have been doing fantastic work in Singapore for close to 90 years. They ran orphanages, schools and all kinds of works that helped the needy. They also ran this retreat house and have spiritual directors among them too. May the Lord continue to bless the work of their hands.

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What do you plan to do after retirement?

What will you do after retirement? I am beginning to get more questions like this. Maybe it is because I announced it officially on our 48th church anniversary service, and I have talked about this with friends for some time now.

It is not an easy question to answer. It is not easy because I really do not have any plans. And I usually would have some plans. After all, I am Singaporean. Not this time though. I am determined to leave God with a blank page and let Him fill it at His divine pleasure and leisure. When I last thought of quitting, I had a logical plan of what I will do in the next chapter of my life albeit in broad strokes. It is unlike me to have to say, No I have no plans. I am going to give God a blank page, wait on Him, and let Him fill it at His leisure. I will wait patiently on God. “For You alone O Lord my soul waits in silence, from Him is my salvation” (Ps 62.1).

I don’t want to be thought of as irresponsible or over-spiritual or impractical – so heavenly minded that I am of no earthly use. It’s my pride, I suppose. I want to look good, smart and responsible – a good and faithful steward. If I had a sensible and inspiring five year plan to rattle off in an elevator speech – people would think, He really thought it through. He is so thorough. They would envy me. To say, I have no plans except to rest and wait till the Lord add to my empty plate at His leisure, is risky. My church friends and colleagues will say, When are you going to help us? We need you to fill this gap and that gap! This is tough – to be not helping when my help is needed. To even be misunderstood by my own church colleagues and friends, if God is silent for a long time. What if the pages remain blank for months? I don’t want to be forgotten. I don’t want to be seen as unhelpful. Lord help me to say, “No I have no plans”, when people ask me THAT question. Give me Your grace and power.

This is not a retirement rule for all believers but it is for me because God is inviting me to live this way – without a certain and sure plan. It could be called the Abrahamic plan. Maybe for you, a detailed or rough plan is a necessity and that may be His intention for you. Not for me this time round. We are all unique, and are all developing in different areas of our life, and God is moving us towards wholeness in different ways. For me trusting God’s providence with my future, without any visible regular support or ministry plans is what God wants to develop in me. In a pastorate, this was an issue in the beginning – the need for faith for finances. But this has not been the case since my children graduated and went on to have jobs. The acute need for finances has ceased for many years.

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