Retired to Wind, Tide, Gravity, and Storm

By Dr Terry Nyhuis

I retired 12 years ago, at 57 years old. Why I retired.
Why I celebrate 12 years adrift.

Water, Dock, or Boat

Snapshot: Twelve Years Ago: I stand with one foot firmly planted on a dock; familiar and pretty much safe. The other foot is perched on the edge of a boat; uncertain footing, for sure, and full of relative unknowns. Not a comfortable situation to be in, right? It gets worse. The boat is slowly drifting away from the dock.

My balance becomes uncertain, and I begin to teeter, uncertain of how to react to this completely new situation. I look down into the water. What was simply an ache in my chest takes a turn for the worse, toward pain and fear. Still, I manage to keep my balance for the moment, spanning two worlds- that of the dock, and that of the boat.

My teetering worsens. The pain and fear grow. My choices are whittled down to three: water, dock, or boat.

Choices are Made One Way or Another

Thing is, no matter what, we end up taking one path or another. Ideally, this is made by conscious choice. We consider our options, and, based upon our best understanding and ability at the time, make a decision as to where we will head next. If we wait too long, though, or if we are not fully conscious of the situation we are in and the reality of the choices we are facing, that careful consideration may not come to pass. Instead, we are thrown headlong into the water simply by default.

Water

I remember two colleagues and friends who did exactly that. They tried to keep one foot on the dock and the other on the boat, either not caring about or oblivious to the consequences they faced in doing so. What happened was the only thing that really could: They fell in. Their lives were overturned with affairs, broken families, loss of ordination and ministry. Lives disrupted. Trust broken. Careers ended. Dreams shattered. Years of recovery ahead. They did not make a choice, and they paid the price for their lack of decision making.

Dock

Other friends, colleagues, and family members (like my Grandpa John) purposefully chose the dock, opting for safe, stationary values, perspectives, beliefs, and ministry. They stepped off a drifting boat, turning away from any deep questions that might have pushed them out of their comfort zones, causing them to reconsider the paradigms in which they previously lived and which served them for much of their lives. Mystery, risky wonder, Halfolescence, and a blooming Second Half of Life drifted away on that boat they chose to let go. By avoiding that which threatened their influence, position, and security, they paid a high price: hearts uninspired, horizons unexplored, and transformations denied.

Boat

I look down and see muddy, threatening water. My pain and fear sharpen, reminding me that I must make a choice: water, dock, or boat. I look to the dock and see security, stability, and added years of a previously rewarding and fulfilling career. So many good years, well spent.

Then, I turn to the boat and see mystery, possibility, and a life of awe and wonder. My heart knows my decision, and my brain soon catches up and agrees. Very deliberately, I lift my foot from the secure dock, and set it on the rocking, drifting boat. I leave the position, security, and community that served me so well while boat and dock remained tethered, and cast off on a new adventure.

With both feet on a drifting boat and my heart and mind open to endless possibility, I am soon driven asea by mysterious Second-Half-of-Life Winds of growth and transformation.

Believe written on beach

Twelve Years Adrift

Now I am celebrating twelve years adrift, driven to unforeseen wonders, as I am undone and then redone by storms. I celebrate these rich, tethered years I was given, thank the One who untethers, and trust Wind, Tide, Gravity, and Storm.

Featured photo by Jon Eckert on Unsplash.

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