I’m acting, I notice, as though I am retired.
Except, I’m not. Given the itinerant nature of the lot I drew in life, and having to do with being a follower of Jesus, I shall have to support myself for as long as I am able.
But the lot I drew is not burdensome. It gives me life.
So I feel torn between laboring on and stepping away from my labors, like the Apostle Paul who views “retirement”—he calls it “death”—as desirable. “Yet if I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.”
Then he adds, “I don’t know which to choose.”
Except it’s the Lord who does the choosing. He knows well who he desires to touch, and love, and bless through me, in the time I have remaining.
But I digress.
I work, yet I act as though I am retired.
My calendar fills up with a city council meeting here, a documentary series there, a discussion group upstairs, a nonprofit funding competition across town.
These forms of civic outreach ask of me new ways to be present to all these people who are not me, engaging in things that have nothing to do with my work—you know, the money-making part.
Except, they do.
“If I do not have love,” Paul writes, “I’m simply a noisy gong.”
If I am not actually giving away some of my precious work time doing things simply because they bless others, then my work is empty of any real Gospel content.
One way I “be present” to someone who is not me is by mentoring a middle school student. Each Wednesday we share lunch and conversation.
Is this convenient? No. Interrupting the flow of my workday to walk seven blocks to the bus, get to the school, and eat lunch with an eleven-year-old with whom I’d had no prior connection? No, being a middle school mentor is not convenient. But it’s graced.
Jesus never said that following him would be convenient. So I keep an eye open for new ways to be inconvenienced as I profess to follow him.
The school year is coming to an end. My student and I will part ways soon. I think about this as I walk out the front door of my apartment building this morning, and notice a large sign on the lawn of the house across the street. Apparently I’ve missed this sign for the ten weeks I have been living here. The Guest House for families of patients at Sacred Heart Hospital is right across the street from my living room windows.
How did I miss this sign?
So I think about being, maybe, a weekly “listening presence” to patients’ families, to whoever needs to talk, or to weep, or simply feel accompanied in the long silences of questions that have no immediate answers, in a season of suffering they did not choose.
What I notice is this: In this season of working while acting retired, and being seen by my friends as retired but still keeping a full work schedule, a question—a prayer, really—rises up: Lord Jesus, who do YOU desire to touch, through me? To love, through me? To bless, through me?
And who do YOU desire to send my way so that YOU might teach and apprentice, and love and bless me, through them?
I notice that the money-making part takes care of itself. Or let me say, the Lord takes care of it for me. Did he not say that I am worth more than a flock of sparrows?
I cannot make things happen. But I can show up, be wholehearted and available, and trust that the assignments will come. Because the Lord, the Giver of Assignments, intends to touch, and to love, and to bless, through the likes of me. Through the likes of you.
Mary Sharon Moore writes and speaks nationwide on
the nature of God’s calling in our times.