I am not learning so much about retirement as I am learning things about myself.  Perhaps, not learning more like becoming painfully aware!  When the decision was made to retire, and for us, this involved moving to a new state, I knew a painful process was coming.  In Florida, there are no basements, and the attic is so hot much of the year that storing things there is similar to keeping things in an incinerator.

Allow me to describe the back story. In 1980 I was introduced to a particular filing system: “The Baker Textual, Topical system.” to be exact.  You must remember this was pre-computer and cloud storage days. A large book contained many topics and a lot of space to add your own.  For forty-two years, I used this system.  Every sermon, Bible study, and idea,it stored it all. Included were typewritten notes, photocopied articles, and items, anything that could fit into a file folder.  It took three filing cabinets and 27 banana boxes or plastic filing bins at one point.

I had moved this ever-growing filing system from Missouri to Texas, to northern Indiana, to southwest Michigan, to Indiana, to Kansas, to southeast Michigan, and again back to Indiana.  Enough was enough.  For weeks and months, I put off the inevitable.  I had to let it go!   Several years ago, I began transferring parts of it to electronic files, and the time it took and the e-storage space likewise became unmanageable.  Okay, now I had to make a decision.  No one wants my stuff!  That was a painful realization.  This was on top of the fact that at one time, I had a several thousand book library. Over the years, I gave some to pastors, friends, and students.  A friend of mine came with me to my office in May of this year and assisted me in packing up the remaining books; well over twenty boxes were taken to the organization: Christian Literature For Africa and shipped overseas.  Several years ago, realizing downsizing was in my future, I transitioned to electronic books, e-readers, and Bible Study software.  Now, the hard part of my life’s work, I could no longer lug the files across the country.

I made the painful decision to get rid of everything, except for the things that had been converted to electronic files.   Sitting in my old office chair, I opened the boxes and slowly emptied the contents.  I read letters and notes received, roughly constructed sermon notes, correspondence, and exciting articles. At least they seemed interesting a couple of decades ago when I decided they needed to be filed away for future use, only never to see the light of day.

Letting go.  Yes, that is what I learned:  in life, there are times when you have to let it go.  Some things are easy to let go of, like liver and onions.  But this represented my entire working life!  Yes, and no one wants my stuff!  Two painful realities.  There were moments of removing files was like peeling my skin off, but I was forced by my situation to let it go.  I am two and a half months into retirement and have not needed anything in my old files.

The need to let go:

In those files were not only happy, warm memories but painful ones as well.  There were letters and documents that I had to let go of  that were markers of painful events.

What I discovered:

  • I am more than my work.
  • Certain things are only meant for a season.
  • Uncluttering is good for the mind and soul.
  • You can only hold on to things for so long.
  • I tend to carry around more than I need
  • Dealing with Susanne’s mother and fathers recent deaths , I discovered you either throw it away or someone else will.

A part of our Christian walk is letting go of the past and trusting God today.  One of the most cathartic parts of getting rid of my stuff was letting go of things tied to difficulties and problems.  Though long since resolved, I tend to hang on to mementos of pain!  It was freeing to let go of these items.  I am no expert on this subject, but can I encourage you to do the hard work of letting go so you can move about more freely today?  Before you have a panic attack. I did not throw absolutely everything away just ninety-eight percent of it and I have to testify it has been okay.  I now have room to breathe and enjoy today.  The files were great while they lasted, it has gotten me to thinking about how much of what we hang on to is really important and necessary?

Well I am trusting the Lord and moving full speed a head into my new season.

7 Thoughts to “Retirement: Forced to Face Reality”

  1. John Bowling

    Well said! Thanks.

  2. Pat Lane

    You could have rented a storage unit. Just kidding.

  3. Don Dunnington

    This is a helpful reflection! I’m five years into retirement and, not having to move, I still have more files and books than necessary! I keep chipping away! Your remarks encourage me! (Except getting rid of books is like getting rid of old friends! 🙂 Blessings on your life going forward!

    1. I hear you my friend parting with a lot of these things is very difficult. But having just helped my wife clean out her parents house was a great reminder that if you don’t do it yourself others will come in and just take care of all of it. So, being the kind of person I am I decided I wanted to make my own decisions of what I would keep and what I would discard of and continue to do so as a journey forward. Blessings on you my friend thanks for your kind remarks

  4. Ron Karkosky

    Dr Blake. This is so good. Love you all!

  5. Pastor Larry Van Slambrook

    Thanks for posting this article! Very helpful! We are in that process right now and the Lord is working with me to help me let go of what has been a part of my life–books, files, material objects. This process has been impacted by other demands in our lives but I’m committed to move forward !

  6. Robert Fannin

    Thank you! I appreciate what you wrote. Strikes a cord with me in giving my books to young ministerial students though many, I’m sure, use the digital form.

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