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When I was in my mid-forties, there were a lot of things I hoped to do with my life. Some of them had been or were being fulfilled, but I realized that others were not. I reasoned that I had at least half of my life left to live, so I had plenty of time to see all my hopes fulfilled. By the time I was in my mid-60s, I was able to check off some of those hopes as fulfilled. But there were still some left unfulfilled and now only about a quarter of my life remained. This time I reasoned that when I retired I would have all kinds of time on my hands to fulfill all of those yet unfulfilled hopes of mine.
I officially retired as a full-time United Methodist pastor at age 66. That was seven years ago. And I immediately embarked on what turned out to be four years as a part time pastor at a small church. I was nowhere near as busy with church work as when I was a full time pastor, but I still didn’t have “all the time in the world” to pursue those still unfulfilled hopes. Finally, the time came, at age 70 (three years ago) when I was really fully retired. By that I mean there was nothing I had to do. No bosses, no meetings, no schedules, no formal responsibilities. I was totally free to get on with fulfillment of those still unfulfilled lifelong hopes ( bucket list), but I became more and more aware of time growing short. When I completed a life-expectancy questionnaire, it told me I had only 15 years left to get it all in before I left this world. Some recent good news is that when I completed the questionnaire again a few weeks ago, it showed that now I had 22 years left. I remembered reading that the longer you live, the longer your life span will be. Apparently there is some truth to that.
As I said, in retirement “…there was nothing I had to do. No bosses, no meetings, no schedules, no formal responsibilities, etc.” There were no other people telling me what I had to do each day, and when, where and how to do all those things I had to do. But it’s also true in retirement that I do have a “Boss”. The same “Boss” I always had. God has always been and will always be my ultimate “Boss”. The difference between then and now, is that then (before retirement) God used human beings as intermediaries (bosses, parents, teachers, etc.) to let me know what I was supposed to do in the ordinary day to day routines of life. In particular, God trusted them to set my schedule – at home, in school, in church, at work – in almost every aspect of my life.
At the same time, even though I wasn’t always aware of it, God was guiding me through the various stages of my life – finish high school, serve in the Navy, graduate from college while employed in the business world, change careers to non-profit church related employment, graduate from seminary and become a pastor, etc. As I look back I realize that God was very directly involved in forming what I call the “big picture” of my life.
Over the last three years, since I became fully retired, I have been more aware than ever that God is still guiding and directing me in the “big picture” of my life. Specifically, God has given me a new hope – a new career -writing. And I have accepted that hope which God has for me as my hope. And it is being fulfilled. At the same time God continues to use other people as intermediaries, but now it’s for the purpose of providing me with positive influence and support. God no longer uses them as intermediaries to control the day to day routines of my life. Now, every day I have to rely directly on God, my ultimate “Boss”, to know what I am expected to do with every day he gives me..
I have also accepted that realistically, some of my yet unfulfilled hopes never will be fulfilled, regardless of what the life-expectancy tables say. I understand that the reason for this is that some of these hopes are not in agreement with God’s hopes for me. I have to let go of these. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. It’s just that God knows better than I do how I can best cooperate with him in fulfilling his plans for the world. When I make God’s hopes my hopes then I can be sure that God will give me “all the time in the world”, and whatever else I need, to do my part in fulfilling the hopes that God has for me. I can expect that God will see that these hopes will be fulfilled, in God’s time and God’s way. All I have to do is focus on the hopes that are still valid, and accept new hopes, in accordance with God’s will. I have been learning this through my 73 years of experience of life in this world, and especially the last three years. I believe that what I have learned not only applies to me, but to all of us.
Grace and peace, Ray Gough
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