“You’ve earned it, Peg! Now go. Relax. Enjoy your retirement,” the principle said, walking into the end-of-year assembly, presenting the school’s most popular teacher with an appreciation plaque as everyone stood and applauded.
I stared at Peg, noting a look of completion in her warm brown eyes. It was the look that’s reflected in the eyes of someone who’s just run a marathon, winning a blue ribbon.
Yep, Peg deserves to retire now. Wow! Thirty-four years of teaching English. That’s how long I would have taught if I’d used my degree, I sighed, feeling a wave of failure sweep over me. Just what is my purpose? It was also my last day, but no standing ovation for me...
I had never jumped in the water. Never taught full-time, only subbed, mostly for paraprofessionals (teachers’ aides). I barely got my feet wet at as a student teacher thirty-five years ago only to discover I’d probably drown as a full-time teacher.
Fortunately, I was engaged to be married when I graduated, so it wasn’t a matter of my financial survival if I didn’t use my degree. Instead, I worked clerical jobs as we waited for the next five years to adopt a baby.
As the bell rang, interrupting my reminiscing, the school year ended as well as my subbing career. Depressed, I drove home. Turning onto our street, I saw the usual soccer moms standing on the curbs, waiting for their kids to tumble off the bus.
I remembered waiting for my older son to come home from high school. A good day was when I didn’t smell smoke on his breath. I used to wait at the bus stop and chase him through the woods, screaming at him to hand over his cigarettes. Today I want to fling a pillow at my TV set whenever I hear that lame commercial which alleges, “Talk to your kids about smoking----They’ll listen!” Yeah, right!
I still have flashbacks of the worst day of my life when we had to give our 18-year-old son the ultimatum---“Either you choose to follow the house rules or leave!”
As he packed his bags, choosing drugs over us, I felt I’d flunked parenting. And, watching him continue to make poor choices as an adult, I’ve often asked, Why, God, did you pick me as his mother if I blew my purpose with him. Surely a more qualified adoptive mother would have done a better job?
My husband has also decided it is time to retire. And, just as Peg, he also deserves a rewarding retirement. Having worked at the same company since 1969, he has that same gleam in his eye which says, “I’ve finished the race.”
But what about me? Have I even started the race? Have I even served my purpose?
Recently I attended a spiritual gifts workshop where I sat next to a woman whom God uses powerfully. What’s more, all of her grown children are responsible Christians, serving God. A gifted nurse, she’s always helping out at church, and was even knitting a prayer shawl during the workshop.
Okay, I’d fumed, chewing on my pencil.Do I have to fill out this useless form and list my boring employment history as well as my traumatic experiences?
Humiliated, I covered the form with my left hand as I filled it out, feeling like a failure as an employee, a parent and a Christian. I hadn’t attempted even a small fraction of the accomplishments most of the other people there had achieved.
Then our pastor went on to explain how God often uses our heartaches to help others. And, after taking the spiritual gifts test, I discovered I was an encourager.
Is it too late for God to use me now that I‘m retiring?I wondered. Then I remembered a seventy-something-year-old woman who had led my Overcomers support group years ago. She had dried my tears when our son ran away from home, assuring me, “You’re just passin’ through, honey. There’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
I drove home and went online, shocked to find an e-mail from my old friend who was struggling with her teenage sons. She wrote,” I need your support. Is there life after teenagers? Please help!”
“Maybe I am an encourager?” I asked the Lord.
“Maybe I do have a purpose? Even in retirement…?”
Then He corrected me, affirming….
My kids don’t retire. The race goes on. But you can’t beat my retirement plan!”
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