I have wanted to write a bit more about spirituality and retirement for awhile and thought now was the time. As I noted in the post about having necessary retirement skills, I guess that it is natural considering that we have less road ahead of us than behind. Thoughts of what all this might mean and where we are headed become more frequent.
The turn toward faith or some form of spirituality doesn't necessarily mean organized religion. As our culture becomes more secular and more segmented, the number of people who claim to be religious remains high (somewhere around 80%), but attendance at church services seems to decline every year. The latest poll figures I could find report less than 20% attend services regularly. At the same time overall interest in spiritual approaches seems to be growing.
I have mentioned before that my religious faith is an important part of my life. To support the possibility that the importance of faith increases as we age, I will share just a bit of my story which points directly to this occurrence.
Raised in a Christian home, I dutifully went to Sunday School while my parents sang in the choir. That was the extent of the expression of faith in our household. Religion was kept in a neat little box that was taken down from the shelf on Sunday morning and put back by 11am for another week. Faith was just not something I ever thought about. My little league games and my paper route were much more real and important to me.
That "faith in name only" continued until my mid 50's, about 3 years after I stopped working. Then, something started to stir in me, something that was telling me I was missing something important. Long story short, a change to a different church suddenly made me painfully aware that I had been living a lie. Up to that point my faith was just a convenient, expected part of my life as a middle class American, but in no way real and in no way affecting how I lived my life.
At that point, it was as if a fire had been lit inside me. I realized all the years I had wasted thinking I was a believer in a very real God. I realized I knew nothing but wanted to know everything. An intense period of Bible studies, reading all I could get my hands on, small group membership, and a hunger to go to the service each Sunday to hear more began. It continues to this day.
Did this realization happen as I moved through my 50's and now into my mid 60's because I began to grasp my mortality? I don't know. Was my openness to the message due to a feeling of an incompleteness in the life I had led to that point? I don't know. Did God break through my shell of flawed humanness? I don't know. What I do know is the faith that I found is real to me, and it happened a few years after I retired.
So, how do I explain my faith in a world that "worships" only what it can see, taste, touch, and control? I can't. That's sort of the point: if it could be proven then it wouldn't be faith.
I will be the first to admit I may be wrong. I may believe in something that isn't real. I may be just kidding myself so I can feel better about the fact that a human life is short and then ends with no one remembering you within a generation.
But, I choose to believe that my beliefs are real. I see too many evidences of my changed life and an incredibly complex world that could not have possibly been created by chance. Regular readers have often commented on the generally positive attitude of this blog and my encouragement for those beginning the retirement journey.
I choose to believe that my faith is what causes that attitude and that positive outlook. If you have been turned off by religion, find it odd to believe in something that can't be proven, and think I am way off the mark, I understand.
I was there less than ten years ago. Thank, God, I am not anymore.