Calling the Game Over

Calling the Game Over

A new season is underway for baseball. Arizona and Florida are rife with activity as young players try to see if they can make it to the big leagues and older players try to prove they can still play.  Grown men playing a boy’s game.

While not as flashy, the same occurrence is being mirrored in industry. Young graduates are preparing to enter the work force while those currently working are being evaluated. Older “players” are deciding if they want to play in this new season or, pick up their gear and move on.

I never appreciated the dilemma of older players until becoming one. I always saw them as having earned the right to enter a new phase in their lives. I now understand that for some, it is a time covered by years of accruing a pension. For many others it is a time of “have we saved enough?” and for still others it is “how are we going to live?” It is a new stress. The challenge of paying for diapers, sports and schooling diminishes to an accounting of life without a salary that paid for one’s lifestyle. I have watched my parents do it, colleagues do it and have had three decades to prepare for it. Why do I feel so unprepared?

Its pretty easy to answer. My wife and I do not have a “destination.”

For the past three decades, I mostly only worried about a “destination” on Sundays. But, that is a “final” or “eternal” destination. While this destination is of primary importance, reality is that I will mistakenly not focus on that relocation until the immediate crisis is tamed. Of course, no-one can say that their final destination can be put off and most of us act as if we can put that destination “in our pocket” for later. God decides that date, but he has not put it in my Outlook calendar yet.

Ideally, this becomes a time of discernment and conversations between spouses. The “team” has to be aligned on the game plan. The conversation needs to be 1) what is our destination? and 2) how do we plan to get there? For three decades, our game plan has been “we’ll decide at 65.” That is not working for me today.

In this, we were really just fooling ourselves or biding time while running around with kid activities. Our eternal destination is the only one of importance. It is why we have faith, why we go to Mass, why we pray to a God who sacrificed himself so we could join Him. While Phoenix may be nice, it is a lot warmer where we will end up if we neglect our final destination now. God did not create a universe just to be relegated to my Outlook calendar.

I pray for a faith that only worries about today. While tomorrow has never been promised for us, I was raised to prepare for it. I saw a father laid off at 58 and prepared myself for this if it were to happen to me throughout my career. Dad fought the pressure better than me. Today’s world does not bode well for those with gray temples anymore than it did for my dad. My question is no longer “where will I go at 65?”, it is now “when can I call it a career?”

One would think it is a simple decision. Set a money target and when you get there you are done. However, for most, that target minimum is hard to define. The risk of giving up that biweekly paycheck plays heavily on our thoughts. Yet, for those who dream of Tennessee, Florida or Arizona it seems as if it is an easier consideration. Why? Because they have a destination in mind.

I don’t have such a destination. I like where I live but know its financially unwise to stay here long term because of the property taxes. Soon our last little birdie will leave the nest so mama bird will be much more willing to go somewhere else.

Ignatius tells us to not make decisions when emotional and to discern whether the path we plan to journey is ours, or whether it is God’s. God does not send email, so it must be a time of prayer and reflection. It is a time of discerning what is important and what does it take to get there. It must be a destination with eternity in mind. My focus on the 401K must yield to a 401Pray.

For most of my career, I have chased plans and set goals. Yet, when it came to retiring I only had ministry goals that I prepared for. I became certified as a spiritual director and spiritual supervisor, I am trained to lead the Spiritual Exercises, and earned degrees in bioethics all for potential ministries when I retire. I lectured at colleges during my career so I could continue to teach if I desired after retirement. Our financial plan is sound. So, what am I missing? A destination.  

I am ready for a new season to start but cannot call it a game until I know where I am going after this season is over.

Warm or cold? Near family or someplace fun? (Can it be both?…) What will we do if we lived in a certain place? Those were all questions we were scheduled to ask at 65. Yet, most those I know who had their destination plan set actually arrived there before turning 65. I am not even sure I am scheduled to make it to 65 health wise!

Such a wonderful time in our lives should not be stressful. For those lucky enough to make it there, we tell ourselves that it is supposed to be a time where spouses return to focusing on themselves again. It is not a new game but simply the 4th quarter, bottom of the 7th, or 3rd period. It is not supposed to be a time of fear but, of planning. As always, it is a time to reflect on the gifts God has blessed us with. It is a time to let go of chasing the brass ring and go back to watching sunsets. It is a time we must stop neglecting the true priorities of faith, family and health.

We have made it past many Spring trainings and weathered many seasons. Whether we call it a game or play it a little longer, we must prepare for what comes next season too. We are stuck here in the minors until God calls us up to the big leagues. 

Play ball!

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Written by
Deacon Gregory Webster