Introductory Note:

As someone presently living into the challenging transitions that come in our mid-sixties, I find myself greatly in need of a realistic and inviting vision for the years ahead. This was the gift given to me in this book. In a warm, personal and accessible way Jack and Jerry explore some of the critical ingredients of such a vision. They helped me to catch a glimpse of this uncertain time of life as a grace- filled opportunity to deepen friendship with God and with some significant others, to keep growing and learning, to continue giving my life in service to others, to give expression to locked-up creativity and, most importantly, to befriend my dying as a time of new beginnings. I was blessed in my reading and greatly encouraged. Thank you to Jack and Jerry for the life-giving gift of their reflections and words.

Trevor Hudson

Those who put their strength in you are truly happy; pilgrimage is in their hearts.
– Psalm 84:5 (CEB)

We live in a time of rapid growth in the number of individuals approaching and entering retirement” (life beyond full-time career). Most discussions of retirement focus on finances. How much money do we need? How long will our retirement savings last? What is the future of Social Security and private retirement programs? In contrast, the personal and spiritual dimensions of retirement get very little attention. Neither the secular nor Christian community offers much guidance in preparing for and living in this important phase of life.

In order to understand these personal aspects of retirement, we have conducted in-depth interviews of retired men and women around the country. Three categories of findings emerged. First, a common set of transitions need to be navigated as we prepare for and enter this new phase of life (moving from a larger to a smaller world of influence, authority, or recognition; disruption in our network of friendships; changes in our most important family relationships.) Second, as we enter retirement, we become aware of a set of opportunities afforded us (retiring to as well as from something; enhanced intellectual growth and creatively, time to devote to spiritual growth, and the opportunity to care for a loved one in a time of need.) Finally, as we continue to age, we face a set of personal challenges we must come to grips with (accepting declines in physical capabilities, planning for the time when we will need assistance in daily living, facing our own mortality, and through the changes later in life continuing to refine our sense of self-worth.) (Our 2010 book, Shaping a Life of Significance for Retirement, describes each of these in detail.) 

Our new book Retirement as Spiritual Pilgrimage: Stories, Scripture, and Practices for the Journey (2015, 2016) emphasizes the spiritual implications of each of these transitions, opportunities, and challenges. It is written for individuals and small groups seeking to explore retirement as a spiritual journey/pilgrimage. Each chapter begins with a personal story followed by consideration of a relevant portion of scripture and a suggested spiritual practice. Thoughtful questions are offered in assisting the individual or group as they discern and discuss their special journey. 

In Retirement as Spiritual Pilgrimage we explore the transition from the larger” world of work to the smaller” world of retirement through the experience of a retired secondary school teacher. She describes how she misses the significance gained from influencing the lives of young people. Over the many years of teaching she received important feedback from colleagues and students as having had lasting, and positive impact on young lives. A year or so into her retirement, she found what many others described as having gone from a large world of influence, authority and recognition to a small world lacking a source of fulfillment and significance. 

Scripture offers insights through the lives of individuals going from a larger world that offered recognition and influence to a place where God worked in a seemingly smaller world. Moses is such an example, as he goes from the status of Pharaoh’s son to herding sheep in a remote desert. The apostle Paul is another example, describing his early years as a Christian as a period of relative obscurity and solitude in Syria and Arabia. Through questions and exploring the practice of letting go, we offer practical assistance in this difficult journey. 

The flip side of going from a larger world to a smaller one is the opportunity to retire to something about which we care deeply. 

We consider the experience of one professional, who drew upon his unique expertise in retirement” to assist an overseas university in establishing an English as a second language program. We then explore the wisdom of scripture on the use of time and God’s timing. Finally, we consider the spiritual practice of discernment. It was essential to this retiree determining God’s call on his life in retirement, and it has that potential for each of us as we consider how God is calling us invest time and energy in this phase of life. 

Of course not all retires are led into such an endeavor. But everyone reported that the transition into full time retirement offers the potential for new richness in our most important family relationships and friendships. Facing retirement as a spiritual journey offers a perspective that allows us to grow in our service to others. And most importantly it sets a pattern of living with grace for meeting such challenges as declining physical capabilities and our own mortality.

- Jack Hansen & Jerry Haas