On Living A Passionate Retirement

By Rev. Bruce G. Epperly, Ph.D.

Two quotes capture the spirit of living a passionate retirement:

“My seventies were interesting, and fairly serene, but my eighties are passionate. I grow more intense as I age.” —Florida Scott-Maxwell

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” —Howard Thurman

hiking desert

Author and psychologist Florida Scott-Maxwell speaks of the passions of retirement. She finds herself more passionate at an age when others have given up the ghost, preferring to let life pass them by. Howard Thurman describes the nature of vocation in terms of passion and liveliness. The mystic, pastor, and social activist asks, “what makes you come alive?” Then when you discern the Life Force flowing through you, “go do it.” In retirement, we don’t need to please the church board or satisfy our congregants. We don’t need to look around to see who’s watching us or fit into others’ expectations of what a minister is supposed to be. We can live our lives with gusto and joy, following God’s inner voice and going places that might surprise those who’ve know us a lifetime. We can really do ministry!

Retirement is not a time for stifling your passions. Nor is it a time for thinking small. Freed from certain constraints, you can embrace novelty. Moving more slowly in some areas of your life, you can sprint in others when you discover what gets you up in the morning and what awakens the energies of creative transformation. Eric Liddell, the “Flying Scot” celebrated in the film “Chariots of Fire” asserts: “God made me fast and when I run, I can feel God’s pleasure.”

Where is your “flourishing?” Don’t let it pass. Life is short now that we are retired. But, we can live in God’s eternal love, and just “go do it.”

The ancient Greeks used the term “flourishing” to describe a person at the height of their powers. In my case, while I hold on to the rail when I go downstairs and walk rather than run three miles each morning, I feel like I am in my intellectual flourishing. I delight in writing, teaching, and preaching in ways that I didn’t thirty years ago. My productivity and insight in joining heart and mind is greater than it was when I was fifty-five, and much more creative than I was at thirty. Where is your “flourishing?” Don’t let it pass. Life is short now that we are retired. But, we can live in God’s eternal love, and just “go do it.”

There is a Divine Passion that flows through life. It is the passion of the moral and spiritual arcs of the universe, aiming toward justice and beauty. It flows through all creation and each one of us. It flows through you. To the world, you may appear placid and maybe an uninteresting retiree. But deep within a fire may be brightly burning. A fire of compassion for the marginalized and forgotten. A flame of justice for the oppressed and mistreated. Embers of hope for an end to war. Sparks ascending to illumine the paths of others. An inner light of creativity and artistry, poetry and physical accomplishment. Let the inner fire come out of its luminous hiding place. Let your inner fire warm, agitate, and illuminate, joining with others’ fires to enlighten the world.

If haven’t done so lately, take some time for reflection on questions like: Where is your deepest passion? Where do you see fire in your life? Where do you experience God’s pleasure moving through your life? How might you let the fire out in ways that bring warmth and healing to the world? Ask for guidance in terms of encouraging this Divine Passion. Listen for hunches, hints, intuitions, or the “still, small voice” of God’s wisdom. Then the take the first steps to “go do it.”

My prayer for you is simply this: May the flames of the Spirit burst forth in you to enlighten you and enliven the world. Amen.

Bruce in wind and water Cape Breton 1
Bruce Epperly is a theologian, pastor, and author of over eighty books, including “The Jubilee Years: Embracing Clergy Retirement,” “101 Soul Seeds for a Joyful Retirement,” and “Jesus: Mystic, Healer, and Prophet.” He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..