Beliefs That Guide Us Through Life

Thanks to Rev. Kevin Steeper for referring me to a new book on retirement written by Bruce G. Epperly, a Process theologian whose writings I have followed for some time: The Jubilee Years. Embracing Clergy Retirement. Although my own book on retirement, ReDesigning Your Life. A Practical Spirituality for the Second Half of Life, takes a more applied or hands-on approach to preparing for retirement, including discussion topics centered in scripture and exercises for small groups, we cover many of the same themes. What I love about this scholarly although very accessible work by Epperly is that it grounds the discussion in our theology. Not surprising since Epperly, among his many accomplishments, has taught theology at the university level.

Chapter two of Epperly’s book is appropriately titled “Theological Guideposts.” He begins with a wonderful quote from his longtime friend, retired United Church of Canada minister George Hermanson, whom many of us remember from his years as innovative Director of Five Oaks in Paris, Ontario. Advising clergy who are about to retire, Hermanson writes: “Get a theology. My theology has enabled me to see retirement as a time of possibility and hope. Without a theology, you don’t have a roadmap for the adventure ahead.”

This may seem rather odd counsel when so much of the retirement literature focusses on finances and health care concerns or planning for winters in the south — when the borders open up again and for those who can afford it. But as Epperly observes, “Theology provides light on our pathway and enables us to face life’s challenges with hope and grace. Theology helps us to respond to new possibilities along with the necessary losses and ‘unfixables’ of the aging process.” In his own life, Epperly has found Lamentations 3:22-23 to be a helpful resource for his personal and professional life and believes these verses will serve him well in retirement too. You may remember that it is from these lines that we get the wonderful hymn: “Great is thy Faithfulness.”

I wonder. What is the foundational theology or belief that has guided you throughout your life? And how can this continue to bring you hope and faith as you journey through the second half or even final third of your life, including retirement? As a young person I memorized many scripture passages that have stayed with me my whole life long. One which I bring to mind whenever I am facing a new or challenging and possibly anxious or disquieting situation is from Psalm 56:3: “What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee.” Of course, in those days we still used the King James Version of the bible; however, the meaning is the same in the New Revised Standard version. It just sounds less poetic!

As I anticipate retirement sometime in the next decade, I am filled with apprehension. Will I have enough money to retire? Will I be healthy enough to enjoy the things I still want to do in life? More importantly, how will I find meaning and purpose and friendship when so much of these life-giving treasures have come to me through my work in congregational ministry?

Over the coming weeks I will explore these and other themes dealt with by Epperly, whose book I hope you will read. Although aimed primarily at clergy, there is much here to commend to Boomers from all walks of life.

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