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Retiring happy

A YEAR eight student was asked by her teacher, “What do you want to be when you grow up”?

“I want to be happy,” was the reply.

The teacher responded by saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t think you understood my question.”

The student replied as respectfully as she could, “I understand the question, but do you understand life?”

I suspect that many of us would agree with this child.

We may want to be happy, but how will this goal be achieved?

I recently went to an evening where the speaker told me that the primary reason people go to work is to achieve their
financial goals.

From his perspective life was about making sure you had enough money to retire comfortably and with suffi cient life choices.

He went on to assure us that based on his calculations we would need $3.5 million dollars put aside.

There and then I gave up any thought that I might retire comfortably and happy.

There are so many voices that tell us acquiring money and goods will make us comfortable and happy.

Yet as affluent as we are, there seems to be a deep sadness within many people.

All the goal setting and striving doesn’t seem to be bringing us closer to this elusive goal of happiness.

I believe that happiness is not the goal of life, but comes as a byproduct of the way we choose to live our lives.

Striving for happiness seems to make us self-centred and inward-looking.

It is interesting that there is no word in the New Testament that comfortably translates as happy in the way we use the word.

The closest word is “makario” which is better translated as “to pronounce blessed”.

It usually means to be pronounced blessed by God.

We believe that our salvation is an act of God’s grace, unconditional favour that restores the relationship damaged by sin.

This we believe is the result of Christ’s life, death and resurrection and is a gift offered to all.

The letter to the Philippians tells us that through Jesus’ selfgiving obedience that led to the cross, he was exalted to the
highest place.

We are told that we should have that same mind that Christ had.

To be pronounced blessed by God, happy, in the biblical sense, comes when we lose ourselves and give ourselves for the wellbeing of others.

Self-emptying seems to allow us to be filled with God’s blessing and in that we know real happiness that surpasses the
circumstances in which we find ourselves.

So can I be happy when I retire?

My wife, Heather, and I have been going through the process of trying to decide about our retirement.

While that is about eight years away, we realise that having chosen not to own a home of our own while I was in ministry will put us in an awkward place when I am no longer provided with a manse.

I am not sure that our children are ready for us to come and live the rest of our lives with them.

We have decided to buy a small house somewhere out of Brisbane with a room for sewing and a shed for wood-working.

These are both pastimes that give us pleasure and relaxation.

Yet there are other things we have been thinking about as we make plans for retirement.

What form will self-giving take in this new context?

How might we engage with the community in a way that enriches both us and the wider community?

We thought that we could go to the local markets and sell what comes from the sewing room and the shed.

As we all continue the Together on the way, enriching community journey we will discover that happiness will be the inevitable result of our losing our lives for the sake of the mission of Christ.

In giving of ourselves we will be pronounced blessed by God.

We will all be happy and bring happiness to others