Leaving well

Leaving well is an important part of making the transition into retirement, yet sufficient attention is seldom paid to this critical psychological aspect of retirement.  It often gets lost among the many obvious practical issues like packing shipping containers, which need to be done but can too easily take precedence.  The preparations for the psychological journey are as important as the preparations for the physical one.  Some of the key things to remember include:

Celebrations.  Often we are reluctant to celebrate our service in mission as we are concerned that we will be seen as seeking credit which should rightly go to God.  But if we celebrate with God, he can get the glory.  And after many years of faithful service, we probably have much to celebrate, even if it’s only the fruit of gritting one’s teeth and hanging on.  Not letting go is an achievement in itself in some mission contexts!  So having parties, dinners, valedictories and presentations is all quite appropriate, and is all part of the ritual whereby we psychologically manage transition well.

Succession planning.  Orderly handover to the next generation can only be achieved if it is planned well in advance.  Identifying a successor and handing over projects and responsibilities at an early stage can create a smooth and stress-free transition which can release the retiring mission worker to concentrate on taking time for goodbyes rather than frantically tying up loose ends until the final day before getting on the plane.  Taking the opportunity to reduce working hours may also smooth the transition into retirement as the mission worker cuts down from a five day week to something shorter, freeing up more time to prepare for and adapt to retirement.

Goodbyes.  Saying goodbye well is also an important part of transition, with the giving and receiving of mementos and saying deeply personal things which communicate the mutual significance of the relationships.  Rushing these activities can leave a vague feeling of unfinished business, with people complaining that they haven’t had a proper chance to say goodbye.  Frequent church services, meals, and thank you parties will be part of this process, but remember also that there will be many private meals and discussions with people you will be leaving behind whom you may never see again.  Take the time to part well, seeking forgiveness and reconciliation wherever possible.

I do not consider my life of any account as dear to me, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

(Acts 20:24)