The journey of faith

We live in a world where it is expected that you know which direction you are heading in life. It is desirable you have a plan. It looks impressive: you have figured it out, you are ahead in the game, you are in control. People nod in approval. They are impressed and the probing stops. 

What if you have no plans of what you will do, for instance, after retirement? What if you said, “I do not have a plan. I don’t know. I am giving God a blank page.” Such answers go against the grain. It goes against common sense and conventional wisdom. It shows a lack of preparation. It surprises some people and they try to hide their surprise, and change the topic, as if to protect you from further embarassment. 

I am one of those without a plan for post-retirement. Actually, my old self-reliant me would have a sustainable, convergence plan. But I have deliberately refrained from strategizing. I do not even have a tentative plan. I want to rely on God more.

For me personally, it is okay, even imperative to not know what lies ahead. God is weaning me from self-reliance and self-sufficiency. He is teaching me to follow in the footsteps of Abraham, my ancestor in the faith, who obeyed even though he “did not know where he was going” (Heb 11:8b). It’s a journey of faith. He will lead me and I will end up being where He wants me to be, doing what He wants me to do. In the meantime, I want to be content with being with God, until He reveals what I am to be doing for God. Both “being” and “doing” are important but the order is paramount: the former must precede the latter. 

Already He has shown me two things He has already written on the blank sheet. He wants me to write; and second, to journey with younger pastors. Therefore, I will begin to obey Him with these two divine directives. I will obey, and watch and pray to see what develops from these steps of faith. 

Recently, I was hiking when a vista captured my attention. I stood there and saw a path that disappeared into the foliage. I could not see beyond a bend. What I could see were several large rocks at the beginning of the path. I took the photo above.

In silence I stood still and pondered. Suddenly I realized I was on holy ground. I was in front of the burning bush and God was reassuring me that though I may not have charted a map for my future, and did not know what the future held, He was with me at this beginning of my journey, as certain as I could see those rocks.

This reminded me of Thomas Merton’s honest and humble prayer:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following Your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please You. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that, if I do this, You will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, I will trust You always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for You are ever with me, and You will never leave me to face my perils alone.”(Thoughts in Solitude)

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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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