By Mike Ruffin
I am entering the fourth month of my retirement. Let me offer a status report on how it’s going.
To put it succinctly: I’ve been busy.
I have gladly made one adjustment to my schedule, which is that I don’t set an alarm. I get up when I wake up. That’s been nice. By the time I attend to my morning rituals of spiritual reading (lately I’ve been reading Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton, both of whom I recommend), prayer, breakfast, getting dressed, and feeding the dogs, I usually get started on my work at about ten o’clock. Except for a short break for a light lunch, I continue working until around four or five o’clock. That’s my schedule from Monday-Thursday. I knock off at one o’clock on Fridays and spend the afternoon running errands.
So, I stay pretty busy. To be fair, though, that’s how I planned for it to be, because that’s how I want it to be. I never viewed retirement as an opportunity to stop working. I rather saw it as a chance to concentrate on the work on which I really want to spend my time. That work falls into three related categories: teaching, writing, and preaching.
I am blessed to serve as an Adjunct Professor at my alma mater, Mercer University. I usually teach one course per semester, sometimes in person and sometimes online. My specialty is biblical studies, so I usually teach Old Testament or New Testament courses. I enjoy those courses. Teaching them gives me the opportunity to introduce some students to the content of the Bible for the first time, to show some students biblical content they were unaware of, and to introduce all students to the scholarly approach to biblical study.
During the most recent term, I taught an Introduction to World Religions course for the first time. I hope the course was as enlightening for my students as it was for me. My life’s commitment has been to teach the Bible from my perspective as a Christian, but it is good for us to know at least a little bit about other traditions and the teachings on which they are based. Greater understanding can make the world a better place.
I am also blessed to have opportunities to write. Since I retired, I have completed a series of four online commentaries for the website Working Preacher. Those articles are intended for and directed toward—as the name of the site indicates—individuals who are involved in the noble task of preaching. My assignment, and that of the others who write for the site, is to provide insight into the background and meaning of the biblical text and to suggest some possibilities for how the preacher might address the passage in the sermon. It is an honor and a privilege to share insights with my fellow preachers.
I have also begun working on a series of Bible studies for my former employer, Smyth and Helwys Publishing. Those studies are not intended for preachers. They are rather directed at people in the pew. It is an honor and a privilege to share insights with my fellow believers.
I have also been writing some poems. I’ll be submitting them to journals soon. Maybe you’ll get to read some of them. You may be wondering if I am really a poet and if what I write is really poetry. Yes, I am and yes, it is, as long as we accept “Someone who writes poetry” as our definition of “poet” and “Anything written in verse” as our definition of “poetry.” For me, writing poetry provides the opportunity to dig deeply into life’s possible meanings and to reflect creatively on them. I hope other people get something out of my poems, but I really write them for myself.
I am also blessed to have opportunities to preach. I usually preach about half of the Sundays in a year. All of my recent invitations have come from Presbyterian (PCUSA) churches, United Methodist churches, and Baptist churches affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. But I will gladly preach in any church that invites me.
In these days of retirement, I am blessed to have so many opportunities to continue to practice my vocation of teaching, writing, and preaching. I plan to continue doing so for as long as I am able.
I hope that all of my fellow retirees are enjoying your retirement. You may not choose to keep on working as I have. Some of you may have no other financial choice but to continue working. But I hope that, whether it is all of the time or some of the time, you find meaning in these years.
You’ve earned it. I hope you enjoy it.