Life is weird. You pick a career path, start a family, work hard and then BAM! You look in the mirror and realize it’s time to do something else. I’m convinced this is the experience of many people. Everyone, including you, has a story. Here’s my transition story.
At the age of 29 I loaded a UHaul truck, gathered my wife and two small kids, and drove 900 miles to attend Seminary. The challenge of leaving friends and family behind diminished when thinking of the road ahead. God had called me to become a minister and this meant I needed to prepare.
Four years later, with a Master of Divinity degree in hand, I took my first church in Albany, Indiana. In four weeks I learned more about the practics of ministry than my time in Seminary. The demands upon me during those years were incredible. But it marked the start of my career path.
- Fast forward 4 churches and 30 years later.
- At the age of 59.9 I felt used up and beat up.
- The passion disappeared.
- My mojo migrated to parts unknown.
I began to dream of retirement. But at 60 it meant hanging on for five more years. I had to admit. Clinging to my job as a pastor, while waiting for retirement, didn’t seem fair to the church.
I examined the options. To stay, even though personally struggling, remained the safe option. But the easy thing didn’t interest me. Doing the right thing became the focus on my attention. And doing the right thing meant to submit my resignation. So I resigned. But this created a big problem. I had no backup plan.
Crazy huh? In 30 days I would have no income. None. And to compound the problem, my wife had been the paid church secretary. We lost ALL sources of income. No longer could we afford our condo. I calculated we had 5 weeks to sell it. If it didn’t sell in that time-frame we would need to consider cutting our losses.
Several years earlier, we purchased a small cottage which we planned to remodel for our retirement. So we had a huge garage sale, packed up the rest and moved into the little two bedroom one bath cottage. And there we sat, waiting for someone to offer me a job or opportunity. But no one seemed to care or notice.
We had a tiny bit of savings to buy groceries and pay utilities for several months. In those months I took a hard look at the options but came up empty. I felt lost and abandoned. Confusion and disillusionment settled over me like a dense fog. There were days when I sat in my easy chair, staring at the wall, with tears streaming down my face. Now what?
During those difficult months, I substitute taught, sold stuff on Amazon and eBay, and preached at every opportunity. My wife had a small online business and made enough to pay our mortgage. Pooling the small revenue streams together allowed us to survive.
At that point, I faced the same temptation many people of my age face: give up. There were times when I thought “let’s call it a day” and continue to hunker down. Wallowing in self-pity seemed reasonable. Why even try? I had given life all I had and this is how it ends? The thought of raising the flag of surrender lurked in the background.
One morning, I recalled a conversation I had 3 years earlier with a friend. At that time he served as an interim pastor and urged me to consider becoming one. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I began to assess my strengths and passions. Traveling and preaching topped my list of things I loved. I realized as an interim pastor I could preach and see different parts of the country. So I stuck my neck out.
I contacted an organization which supplies interim pastors to churches in transition. An invitation to receive their free training soon arrived in my inbox. All other costs were on my shoulders. I calculated the costs to be around $1300. That’s a lot of money for someone who made $75 per day substitute teaching. But I rolled the dice and hit the jackpot.
Since then I’ve served in Oregon, Arizona, and now Idaho. Previously I had never been west of the Mississippi river. I preach weekly while assisting churches in transition. I have time to write and assist others going through their own transition.
In addition to speaking at churches and leading them through transition I continue to write. July 2016 saw the release of my book Tom’s List: 50 Commandments to Transform Your Life. Within two weeks of it appearing on Amazon another author contacted me and invited me to co-author a book with him.
Life is fulfilling. While many people my age are winding down and dreaming of retirement I’m enjoying the process of “refirement!”