WAYPOINTS: Changing our sphere of influence

The Rev. Mike Hesse
The Rev. Mike Hesse

The summer season is winding down. Labor Day has come and gone along with much of the crowd. For those who make their living from the sea, another busy half-year on the Gulf has given way to a September lull. Soon the October Fishing Rodeo will rev things up for a final push before winter closes in.

For a number of our captains and mates, this will be a transition time. Their bodies have finally shouted loudly enough to catch their attention that they have reached their limit. There is a time when climbing ladders, crawling around engine compartments, and absorbing the daily pounding of often angry seas takes its toll. Some of our “old men of the sea” will be stepping away from their boats and into a new stage of their lives in the weeks to come.

What is true for them is true for everyone who earns a paycheck at some point in time. There is a new generation forever coming up behind the old, eager to take its turn at being stewards of this world. This is often a particularly challenging time for men. Whereas most women find meaning primarily in relationships, most men find it in their work. So, for many men (and some ladies) the idea of retirement holds out little more than a sense of loss, as if one’s value has evaporated like some mist in the night. There is a real temptation for folks to give up and resign themselves to being ushered into the great American tradition of retirement followed by death, if not in body then certainly in spirit.

Such should never be the case for a person who follows Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In our Lord’s economy our value is not judged by how much we make, but by whose we are. The Lord looks at each one of us as being worth His Son going to the cross for. If that is the case, then how much are you worth? A hundred thousand dollars? A million? A hundred million? If Jesus thinks every human being is worth dying for, then it means that every one of us is priceless in His eyes. If we are faithful, then we are equally valuable to our Heavenly Father whether we dig ditches, run a great corporation — or have stepped into retirement.

So what is next for God’s “priceless retirees?” They can turn their backs on the truth, give up and curl up in the fetal position. They can resolve to do mindless things all day every day to try and fill the void. I love fishing, others like movies or golf or some other form of entertainment. Most of them are perfectly good, but shouldn’t there be more to life than either capitulation or constant amusement? Of course there is!

Not long ago while at a conference, I attended a workshop on retirement because I can see it looming on my own horizon. The leader said something which has really stuck with me. He said spiritually healthy folks don’t retire — they “move their sphere of influence.” What a perfect explanation.

Moses was 80 years old when God called him to lead the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt on their great Exodus to the Promised Land. I doubt there are any Moses’ among us, but a lifetime of experience resides in almost everyone who steps away from the full-time world of earning a living. Think of all the ways that person in the service of the Lord could impact his or her congregation, family, community or nation. He or she has both time and talent to make a difference. 

Journalist Hunter Thompson penned these challenging words worth our reflection.

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ... ‘Wow! What a ride!’”

I say “Amen” to that!

The Rev. Mike Hesse is senior pastor of Immanuel Anglican Church in Destin.