Reflections On My Approaching Retirement

 

It was the summer of 2001 when then-DS Tom Mouw offered me a part-time position as an administrative assistant with the North Central District.  Now, almost 23 years later, as May 31 and full retirement approaches, I’m amazed at the passing of time, and very grateful for these rich years.

I’m looking back.  I think of the many pastors and church leaders that I’ve had the privilege of knowing and working with; of the search teams that I’ve trained; of the credentialing candidates that I’ve coached and councils that I’ve led; of the conferences that I’ve helped organize; of the conflicted situations I’ve addressed; of the phone conversations and mealtime conversations I’ve had; of the resourcing and administrating that has come my way.  All these expressions of ministry, all this variety, has been a blessing to me and a gift of God’s grace.

I’m looking ahead.  I look forward to unhitching, resting, and re-setting for the first year of retirement.  All-around physical health and vitality is one of my aims.  I will also have lots of opportunities to connect with children and grandchildren.  I have responsibilities in Centennial EFC that I’ll keep engaging.  Beyond this I will be getting my bearings and seeking God’s direction for longer-term retirement plans after a season of rest and refreshment.

I’m thankful.  My time with the NCD has been so richly formative in my own life.  I’m grateful for Dean Johnson’s mentoring and coaching in my first couple of years.  Tom Mouw and Dan Moose were game-changing mentors to me over the years as they gave me real-time coaching amid my bumping into myself and my seeking to address issues of my own heart.  Brian Farone has been a delight to work with and an example to me of sacrificial love for Christ’s church.  The district credentialing network has served fellow leaders so capably in the credentialing ministry.  The district staff has been a bright sparkle all along the way, including Frank and Dave now carrying my batons of pastoral search and credentialing.  The love, unity, collaboration, play, laughter, tears, and concerted effort of the staff team in helping one another follow Jesus has been a priceless blessing.  The churches of the district have been so generous in supporting us staff.  I’m thankful for steady employment and for the strategic help of FCMM in retirement planning.  I’m deeply thankful for the EFCA—its convictions, values, aims, and ethos.  What a wonderful family of churches to be in!  Above all, I’m grateful for the support of my family, especially Kathy’s partnership in ministry through conversation, counsel, encouragement, and shared joy in Jesus.

I’m grieving.  While I’m eager to engage retirement’s opportunities, I’m beginning to feel its many inevitable losses.  The matrix of persons, relationships, endeavors, goals, and rhythms that make up my NCD world will largely (though not entirely or permanently) go away.  My path leading up to May 31, and then beyond, includes facing those losses as they present themselves in sudden and concrete ways, embracing them, and letting go.  Not without tears.

I’m admiring.  What important ministries you all have!  My supply-line ministry over the years has been aimed at supporting your front-line labors.  I appreciate the work you do, the spheres in which you serve, and the variety of expressions of God’s grace and power in and through you.  Serving you these years has been a privilege indeed.

I’m mindful.  At this juncture in my life, from the perspective of now being on the back side of these 23 years, is there any exhortation I would leave with you?  Recalling Scripture, reflecting on my own pathway, and having observed trends that come and go, I would offer this: pray.  Cultivate with yourself a life of prayer; with your family or closest friends a circle of prayer; with your team of fellow leaders a culture of prayer; with your church a counterculture of prayer.  Don’t allow distractions to marginalize it.  Don’t allow clock and calendar pressures to crowd it out.  Don’t allow self-reliance to replace it.  Take Jesus up on his amazing invitations throughout Scripture to pray.  God’s work does not come about by our might or power, but by his Spirit (Zech. 4:6).

I trust our paths will still cross in various ways in the years ahead.  Grace and peace to the NCD family of churches!

— Dave Linde