Have you ever felt that there was something wrong in your life, but you couldn’t quite put your finger on the issue or problem causing this feeling? For the past few months I’ve been in that situation. The good news is that recently I figured out what was bothering me. Basically, the issue was that despite the fact that I am fully retired, I’m still not getting everything done that I believe I should be getting done. There is just too much to do and so little time to get it all done. I remembered many times when I faced this situation in my employment in the secular world in the export shipping business, my church related public relations work, and then as a pastor. As I neared retirement one of my hopes was that I wouldn’t have to deal with that issue anymore. After all, for the first time in my life I wouldn’t have to be anywhere or do anything determined by a boss, parent, teacher, the people of a congregation, or anyone else (except for Joan, my wife, of course). I hoped that I would be almost totally free to set my own schedule and decide whatever I wanted to do with my life. And I expected that hope to be fulfilled. But still, here I am with what seems to be too much to do and too little time to do it. At the same time I’m realizing that I am not alone. This is the way it is for many people of all ages, and in all stages and walks of life. So I have felt led to write about this issue in this this week’s blog.
First,some background about my situation. For the past two and a half years I have been fully retired. Frequently someone will ask me “How do you like retirement?”. My basic reply is “I like it a lot”. Usually that’s the end of the discussion. But sometimes my response leads to further retirement related questions or comments, especially if the person I’m talking with is also a retired pastor. The next question is usually “Don’t you miss being a pastor?”. To which I reply “Not one bit. I do some substitute preaching now and then at churches in my immediate area, and that’s the extent of my doing pastoral things”. One retired pastor then commented “Well, you can’t make much money doing substitute preaching”. So I explained that I don’t have to make any money. God has fully provided for my and Joan’s needs with Social Security and our pensions. The next question (one frequently asked ) was “Well, what do you do with your time?” The assumption seems to be that if I’m not busy doing what I used to get paid to do, I’m no longer “in ministry”. So I explain that while I have retired from the employment for which I was paid (ministry as a pastor), I have retired to a new form of ministry for which I am no longer paid. Now I am a writer. I write this blog. I’ve been writing a book – my spiritual memoirs – and I have some other writing projects in mind. I don’t expect to make any money on these. I write because I believe that’s what God has called me to do as my primary ministry in this stage of my life.
Now back to my issue of too much to do and too little time to do it. During my pre-retirement years there were many things I hoped to do. I knew I couldn’t do these things then, usually because of insufficient time, money, or other unavoidable reasons. So I was content with believing my hopes for these things would be fulfilled when I retired. Once I knew for sure when I would officially retire (six and a half years ago), I made a list of all the things I hoped to do and could realistically expect to accomplish (“for the rest of my life to do list”). Then I began four years of serving as a part-time pastor at a small church and at the same time, two years in a part-time church related job which required substantial time and travel. So during those four years my proposed plans were for the most part again postponed. Finally, two and a half years ago, I began my full retirement. No longer employed. Financially comfortable. In good health for a person my age (70 at that time). Now I was sure my postponed hopes would be fulfilled.
I got out my “for the rest of my life to do list”. I scratched some things off as either done, unrealistic, or no longer interested. A few of the items on the list were already under way. Then there were a lot of other things on the list. So I set up a detailed schedule, sure that if I followed it, my hopes would be fulfilled. I made sure that I gave sufficient time on the schedule for a few major projects – This blog, the book I was writing, a project for the Navy Musicians Association, to which I belong. I’m convinced that God has given me these projects as my top priority. They aren’t the problem. The problem is everything else on the list. There’s still too much to do and too little time to do it, even if I live another 20 years in this world . Over the past two years I’ve tinkered with the schedule, trying to find the best was to get it all done. But that’s not working.
There is also the problem of distraction. Mostly, the distractions come in the form of information on the internet that looks interesting and might even be useful some day. A lot of it is church related. So I have to remind myself that while it’s good to keep informed to some extent about what’s going on in the church, I don’t need to know about everything, precisely because I am now a retired pastor. For the past few months I’ve been perfecting the art of deleting a whole lot of internet information, without even opening it. I’m getting pretty ruthless about that. I don’t think I’ve deleted anthing that really mattered. Then there was the computer itself. It was getting increasingly difficult to get it to work right. After about two months of wasting time with it I got a new computer. So far, so good. Now I have no more excuses about getting things done. But there are still a lot of items on the “rest of my life to do list” that aren’t getting done. And some of them impinge on the time I should be devoting to the God-given priority projects. There are still some things (I don’t know which ones)which I’ll never get done. So what do I do about that?
Sunday I asked my friend and partner in ministry, Patty Perez, to pray for me about this issue. I knew she would and I know she did. Because on Monday I had my answer. I was reminded of a scripture verse from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the people of the church in Corinth. Colossians 1:9(CEV) “…we always pray that God will show you everything he wants you to do and that you may have all the wisdom and understanding that His Spirit gives.” I realized that the wisdom God was giving me in response to Patty’s prayers for me was “you won’t get it all done and you don’t have to get it all done. Don’t worry about it.” I understood that God was reminding me of a few principles that had worked before when I was in similar situations (Too much to do. Too little time to do it):
1.Focus on the priorities God gives you. If you don’t do anything else, make sure you do these. God will assure that He will give you all the grace you need to do whatever He gives you to do. God will never give you something to do that you cannot do.
2.Aside from the God-given priorities, God is not going to give you a detailed list of whatever else you should or could do. God leaves that for you to decide. God will be okay with you getting involved in those other things on your list, as long as they don’t impinge on the priorities He has given you.
4. Accept that there will always be worthwhile things that don’t get done, even over all the remaining years of your life on earth. God is okay with that. It should also be okay with you. Be willing to let go of some things. If there is some real value in these other things, God is likely to arrange for someone else to in some way begin or continue with them. Also, any of those other things you do get done, even if never completed, are likely to benefit someone after you are gone.
5. Remember that while your life in this world will be too short to get everything done that you believe you should get doone, when you leave this world God will have some things for you to do, and you will have eternity (forever) to get them done.
I usually don’t make New Years resolutions. But one of my hopes is to apply these principles as I go through the new year, and every year that I have left in this world. I believe it is part of God’s will for me, so I expect that God will assure that it is a hope fulfilled.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty and Ray