Whether we’re dreading retirement or approaching it with a heart full of cherished hopes and dreams, our concept of it is generally centered around one thing: removing ourselves from work. The word typically refers to leaving one’s job; its unintended consequences, however, often seem to include loneliness, isolation, obscurity – a state which may leave something to be desired.
Thankfully, there is a broader sense of retirement that is worth considering. When Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy retreated from society for about three years following her discovery of Christian Science, she said it was “to ponder my mission, to search the Scriptures, to find the Science of Mind ... and reveal the great curative Principle, – Deity” (“Retrospection and Introspection,” pp. 24-25). She retired for the sole purpose of going up higher in her understanding of God, the divine Mind.
This type of retirement enabled her to withdraw from cultural restrictions on women and from myriad beliefs that hold back humanity. She grew in her understanding of the scriptural explanation of God as ever-present divine Love, who fully directs and governs man and the whole of creation.
This understanding did not occur all at once. It dawned in consciousness, was carefully and prayerfully considered, and was then applied with healing results: She repeatedly proved that the divine laws of God are always available and able to liberate the sinning, sick, and dying.
Through earnest study of the Bible, she learned from the examples of its faithful people, particularly Christ Jesus, how to retreat from worldly concerns to gain higher views of divinity. Mrs. Eddy says of his example, “Jesus prayed; he withdrew from the material senses to refresh his heart with brighter, with spiritual views” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 32).
Jesus’ moments of withdrawal from the clamor of torment and hatred – up into a mountain, into a ship, into the garden of Gethsemane – were not a retirement from care and duty; they were moments of selfless surrender to God’s will in order to gain strength and inspiration for his work of teaching and healing. He withdrew to go up higher in his understanding and demonstration of God.
And he showed that the law of Love is universal, now. There is no waiting to be free over a period of time. What a blessing it is to know you do not have to wait to be of a certain age before retiring or retreating from adversity!
And if you are past what is commonly considered retirement age, there’s no law that says you have to cease working. One woman, well past that age, was often told she should close the private school she owned and retire. Yet she felt a strong commitment to the children’s education. Understanding that divine Life, God, is pure, perfect, and infinite in scope and capacity, and that all of God’s children fully and eternally express this Life, she was never burdened by a sense of heavy labor.
So she retreated – from the prescribed customs or social mores of her day. She refused to agree with being too old, too frail, or needing to accommodate the “sunset years.” Instead, she relied on God-derived, God-endued vitality, well-being, strength, and productivity. She kept teaching and running her school for many years.
Whether or not we retire in the conventional sense, there is no retreat from Life, because we forever express the Life that is God as our very own nature. On this basis, we can overcome limitations of material thinking and living. We can see that retirement isn’t based on a calendar or a geographical change, and needn’t be characterized by unwanted solitude, or obscurity. Heaven forbid! Its blessing is not in creating a new life after a certain age but about discovering and defending our right to experience more of our God-given life all along the way. With each new view of God, Life, we can have a fresh experience, make progress, contribute, and discover health.
However many changes we make in our lives, we never retire from God, Life, and His goodness and vitality. Through prayer, we can discover God’s plan of infinite good, well-being, and service, and feel the ever-present divine Love that sustains us in challenging moments.
Adapted from an editorial published in the Aug. 19, 2019, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.