To paraphrase Samuel Langhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, reports of my retirement have been greatly exaggerated.
Late last April, an agreement was reached by which my employment with The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada came to an end. However, there was no Freedom 55 in my plans. In fact, the plan was to figure out what a guy who figures he’s got twenty good years left in him, God willing, will do with that time. Those of you ahead of me on this journey are free to suggest whether you think I’ll be ready to slow down at that point.
But, first things first.
The timing was good in terms of my work responsibilities. For the first time in my seven and a half years with the organization, public policy and legal issues on the EFC’s agenda were aligned for fulfillment and the forward timeline was a six month window. Thanks be to God.
Although outside the organization, I was blessed to be able to play an ongoing advisory role on all of the relevant matters by invitation of the Members of Parliament, lawyers and coalition members with whom we had been working. For a guy who takes responsibility seriously, that was a significant personal help.
As someone who learns best from reading and experience, needed clarity and enrichment came through a friend’s recommendation of the book Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. I invest myself in what I do; it matters to me. This book proved central to processing what lay behind and preparing for next steps.
The timing was also good because those of us who live north of the 49th parallel and east of the Rocky Mountains were on the cusp of motorcycle season. A good friend and I planned and then completed a tour of the Atlantic Provinces that had us in rain gear only twice for parts of days over two weeks of fabulous riding and fellowship. We also shared a book that centred our devotional time and conversation on our Heavenly Father’s love for each of us personally. This was vital refreshment.
Having my head and my soul in a healthier mode, I was ready to hunker down at home for a time; grateful that Gloria had agreed with me that time was needed to process the ending that had occurred before beginning to move forward. We set September as the earliest to respond to job offers.
I thought I knew, but truly had no idea the mission and ministry of love Gloria had taken on as, in her words, “primary personal assistant” for our grandson. John has lived with us for most of his five years. He was born with disabilities that require coordination of medical and therapy appointments with a variety of physicians and therapists and social workers. Add to that mix that Gloria was also the strong woman behind a husband who had sometimes outlandish work hours and it was soon (finally?) evident to me that she, too, needed some time off.
We both ended up with tears on the morning in May when the team at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre asked if we could stay for a bit when dropping John off one morning. We stayed. He walked, with the aid of a walker, a circuit through the hallways that they had been practicing. This was the goal that had been established as the precursor to John attending a “regular” school. In September, he proudly walked through the front doors of an elementary school.
John’s walking, Gloria’s responsibilities and relationships, having our daughter, Grace, nearby, and my own friendships and interests were all important to the next stage of preparation; identifying the priorities that are key indicators for prayer and decision making about what will be next for me workwise.
In addition to time to read and reflect on the Scriptures, have conversations and pray, I worked through another book recommended by a friend. Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro is, in my opinion, a must read for anyone in or desiring to be in a leadership role. Supplemented, for me, by Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God and several books by Henri Nouwen, Cordeiro’s book offered sound advice and direction on how one establishes priorities that reflect life balance. I say “life balance” because I am convinced that when one gives equal or premiere billing to “work,” i.e. “work/life balance,” one is laying the foundation for life to be out of balance.
Knowing my priorities – and the priorities Gloria and I share – resulted in saying “no” to some prospects. I won’t pretend that it wasn’t difficult at times or that there hasn’t been any fear about missed opportunity. But, God has seen fit to provide encouragement and inspiration along the way; and, we have experienced His provision along with reassurance of His plans. For the greater part, there has been a peace and a confidence in Him. And, now, there is a preparedness.
We’ll see how it progresses. However it does, we are certain that His plan for our lives is intact and unfolding. As was often said in the congregation that was our church home for several years, God’s still in control, it’s gonna be okay.