Rethinking Retirement Planning

Over the weekend I read a newspaper article about retirement. It said lots of couples don’t talk about it either because they make assumptions about how it will all work out or they don’t think about it or they try to avoid it. I saved the story because I know, being just 37, that retirement feels like it’s too far into the future to even think about, let alone plan for.

The article made me rethink this. I was waiting for a quiet time that Steve and I could at least consider what we might want our post-work years to look like.

Then I read Corrie ten Boom. At 73 years of age, she finally took a break from “20 years of wandering the world as a tramp for the Lord,” as she described it. She was ill and needed time to recover. She took a year off, which for her meant living in the same place, sleeping in the same bed and speaking only two or three times a week. It was a wonderful year that included one bed. For her, sleeping in the same bed, night after night, was a pronounced luxury. She wrote,

The greatest pleasure was to sleep every night in the same bed. During the last twenty years I had slept in more than a thousand different beds, always living out of my suitcases. This year I rested. I put my clothes in a drawer, hung my dresses in a closet, and best of all, each night I laid my head on the same pillow.

It was so good in fact, that when her Sabbath Year was over, she wanted to extend it, indefinitely. But God had other plans. At first she resisted, making plans of her own. But as was characteristic of her life, she submitted her will to His, repenting for her sin. She wrote,

I had lost my first love. Twenty years before I had come out of a concentration camp — starved, weak, — but in my heart there was a burning love: a love for the Lord who had carried me through so faithfully — a love for the people around me — a burning desire to tell them that Jesus is a reality, that He lives, that He is victor. … And now? Now I was interested in my bed.

And so she repented and accepted God’s forgiveness. And she went back to work. She said,

What a great joy it was to experience the love of God, who gave me rivers of living waters for the thirsty world of Africa, America, and Eastern Europe. Of course, it might be the will of God that some old people retire from their work. In great thankfulness to the Lord they can then enjoy their pensions. But for me, the way of obedience was to travel on, even more so than before.

Her example, of approaching retirement not by asking how much money she’ll need to maintain her lifestyle (one of the key discussions that article recommended having), but by asking God what His will is stands is such sharp contrast.

Scripture says,

Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us (1 Peter 2:11-12).

I needed that reminder today. That we’re supposed to be misfits in this world. That our relationship with Christ is the organizing principle that should affect everything we do, including how we spend our old age and even where we lay our heads to sleep.