My topic organisation on this blog so far has been non linear. There are threads of retirement experiences, existentialism, spirituality, travel, a bit of political comment, and even the beginning of a photography thread! I haven’t even managed to maintain a logical sequence within threads.
If anyone were to be looking for order in my blog I don’t think they would find much of it, and in a way, that pleases me. I am not writing a novel or a thesis. If my posts are seen as little morsels to be tasted and thought about before moving on, that is all I have intended them to be.
Coming soon will be a few more photographs showing some stumbling attempts to capture pieces of commonplace beauty. More travel posts are coming too so if that is what attracted you to my blog, don’t lose heart. Meanwhile, have a look at some other things I have posted. You never know what you may find chewable, if not digestible.
Following no particular order or preconceived plan, my exploration of lived spiritual experience continues to unfold. This time I want to focus on a short verse from John’s gospel that has been hovering in front of me for some time now. With retirement from full time work and its aftermath now a lived reality for me, the words of Jesus resonate:
John 12:24 (NIV)
“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds”.
If the original fruit doesn’t wither and die, the seed can’t germinate. For me, this is full of spiritual insight.
It speaks to so many parts of my life. Pain and suffering are so often the precursors of new growth. Conversly, new beginnings don’t happen without birth pangs. As I was wondering last year what retirement from full time work would bring, I was also attracted to this verse from John.
Make no mistake. The thought of retirement brings challenges, threats and anxieties to the forefront. The approaching reality of the end of a full time career has a way of focusing us on things like identity and meaning in a way years of career struggle do not do. Is this the end? Is this all there is? Silly questions maybe, but they poke their heads up and beg to be dismissed by the rational thinker at the end of a successful career. Jesus’ words speak to these questions of my spirit. The answer is clear that the end of a career was not the end of identity (and certainly not the end of life). It was the start of something new – as trite as that sounds. Further, the something new was not going to happen, and in fact could not begin to happen, until part of me first struggled, withered and died. That is what has happened within me. After experiencing some grief at the loss of career identity and no longer being a decision maker at the centre of things, I find the grief has done its job and gone, replaced by a quiet certainty that all is well and that I am looking to a future with different challenges and a different marker for my identity.
I am feeling a little like a chrysallis at present. I’m not yet a butterfly but there is a sense within me that it won’t be long. (Sorry – that also sounds trite, but it is accurate). I can’t remember the last time I felt so content within myself and so comfortable within my skin.
This is spiritual; pure and simple. God is so close I tremble. “Be comfortable and be assured”, He says. “What lies ahead is not the same as what came before. I have prepared it for you. It won’t be without hurt but you will be living my purpose for you”.
Not for the first time I have seen the wisdom of Jesus’ words about the withering grain of wheat. Half a lifetime ago I came to know the power of this parable when after years of unhappy consequences of a regrettable divorce I married my present wife and new life grew from the wreckage of the old. New beginnings sprouted and have since flourished.
Now once again I feel I can lay down some of the stuff I have been carrying for the past few decades and begin anew.
My step is lighter. I am ready for a new road.
I have some insight but little certainty about what that road might be. The other day I wrote down a list of the things that would likely be important on that new road. It included this WordPress blog; Photography (landscape and macro); Travel; Fitness and weight loss; Housework and cooking; My family (including grandchildren); Mentoring future school principals; Learning web page development and e-publishing; Maintaining my competency in German; and interestingly, Ministering to men through support groups.
My Christian spirituality is expressing itself in all of these interests. The churn is slowly stirring. Each interest is a way to honour and celebrate God’s creation using the gifts I have been given. I am so very thankful to be in a position where I can recognise the richness of life. A career has withered and died. A new beginning is revealing its green shoots.
For me this is an example of another of the dimensions of Christian spirituality that give depth and meaning to my life experiences. Hope trumps hopelessness. New life follows desolation. Thank God.
While it seems abrupt to finish this post now, it is late and I am tired.
If what I have written is of any interest to you and/or helps you in your journey, I am pleased.