Where do you picture yourself in forty years?
If I have any faithful readers out there, they may have noticed I didn't get a chance to post a new blog last week. That's because I was in Virginia visiting family for my dad's retirement celebration. He just retired after forty years and eight months of service as a civilian employee for the Navy. He started working at this place as part of an internship program while he was still in college and he's been working there ever since. He's worked there as long as I've known him, which is to say my whole life, and then some. That's a lot of different ways to say “Forty years?! Wow, that's a long time!”
The luncheon they had to honor my dad was pretty packed. There were a lot of speakers – people who wanted to express what he had added to their work lives at this place: as a faithful employee, as a coworker, and as a boss. When the people above you, beside you, and below you at work all have good things to say about you, that's a pretty impressive thing. It was really special for Jessi and I to be there and share in that celebration and hear those kind words.
It gave me a lot to think about. It seems like it's increasingly rare these days to work at a place for 40 years, with our lives growing more mobile and with changes in the economy making that kind of stability a luxury. Jessi and I love serving together at River Oaks Church and though we hadn't planned to stay in Florida when we moved down for my counseling program almost four years ago (wow, that went by fast) we don't have plans to leave any time soon. But even if we're not planning it, who knows where God could take us next or when? Will we be here for the next forty years? Who would speak at my retirement luncheon and what would they say? Working in ministry I probably won't ever actually get a retirement luncheon, but you know what I mean. From the time I've spent pondering those questions during and since the trip, two thoughts have stuck out.
First, that I want to have an impact on people like my dad has had. In the same way that my dad offered stability to his department and people were able to fulfill their roles better because of his faithfulness; I want the people around me to feel more fully able to be who they are called to be because of me. In counseling, in my church, but most of all in my family. I may not stay in any one place for forty years, but I will be with Jessi and our future kids for as many years as the Lord allows and they are the first priority He has given me.
Second, I've realized that even if I don't work in the same place for forty years, I can spend the rest of my life in service to something even greater than the Navy or the United States. I want my whole life, whether I'm serving in church, doing counseling, or just spending time with my family, to be in service to the Kingdom of God. And the reality is that it can and should be. Maybe it doesn't come with a 401K, but the retirement benefits are still the best. I may not get a lunch ceremony while I'm alive but some day I look forward to hearing “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
Whatever it is that you do from day to day to pay the bills, I hope that God gives you a vision for how you can do it in service to His Kingdom. Your faithfulness matters. In your work, in your family, in your church family. Someday you'll see the results of your years of faithful service and the joy of eternity will last much longer than forty years.