Blog reflection: An Uncommon Guide to Retirement
Discerning & Answering God’s Call in the Retirement Phase of Life
Jeff Haanen, An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life (Moody Publishers, 2019)
What’s next? How do I balance my commitments to rest, family, and work? What’s the proper role of work in this new season of life?
Estimates suggest that within the next 20 years 80 million baby boomers will retire. According to the US Census Bureau, those over the age of 65 are now the fastest-growing demographic in the United States. This population is asking important questions about their relationship with work in this next phase of life, about their identity and purpose, about a faithful relationship with retirement, and about what calling looks like now. It is on these key questions and concerns that Jeff Haanen, Founder of the Denver Institute for Faith & Work and CFB Fellow, focuses in his book, An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose of the Next Season of Life (Moody Publishers, 2019).
Along with a suddenly free schedule, in many cases the retirement age and stage bring novel challenges: newfound loneliness, no longer sharing familiar work and relationships, and deep questions of identity, meaning, and purpose. A BBC report indicates that retirement can increase depression by 40 percent. In response to these common questions and challenges, “Retirement needs a new story,” Haanen concludes. “Or better yet, a very old story” (p. 30).
An Uncommon Guide to Retirement walks readers through an understanding of ancient Christian practices uniquely suited to equip disciples to steward well this unique phase of life, starting with sabbath keeping. A call to remember the sabbath is an invitation to reframe so many conversations on retirement, placing a right understanding on the relationship between work and identify. “Work was created to be an expression of our identity,” Haanen notes, “not the source of our identity” (p. 40).
An intentional approach to sabbath at this stage of life can allow space for a new consideration of calling. Haanen considers some common misconceptions of calling: “My calling is to do what I love,” many suggest. Or: “A calling is a life-stage,” some will suggest, often meaning “Conversations about calling are just for 20-year-olds.” Addressing each misconception, Haanen offers a robust Christian vision of calling, concluding with six helpful questions to serve as a guide for readers to consider anew God’s call.
Through the lens of sabbath and calling, Haanen suggests, retirement can offer a unique opportunity to reframe of one’s identity, especially one wrapped up too tightly in work. With specific attention to the unique challenges of this stage of life—money, time, health, and relationships—An Uncommon Guide to Retirement is a helpful guide for disciples seeking to enter faithfully into this next phase of life, individually and collectively responding to the unique needs that abound and surround.
As someone who is decades away from retirement age myself, I have aging parents, older friends, and mentors who are facing these challenges and asking similar questions. I am grateful to Haanen’s thoughtful book to recommend.
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