Yesterday, as the snow continued to fall on that beautiful April day, I decided that I could and should take on another sort-out of papers and files. After all, I have been retired for 9 ½ months now, and many of the papers had not been messed with for a couple of years prior to that. So I went to work. I’m always stunned by how easy it is to put things in a file folder! Each folder I pulled out of the cabinet had loads of paper in it, but the papers were truly not worth anything.
For instance, I found in the pile of folders, one that was marked “Care Committee.” This was a normal part of my labeling system, and it promised to open the door to some sort of process or minutes or workshop or whatever. The trouble was, I couldn’t remember what the “care committee” was all about, until I began to read through some of the papers. Apparently, in 1990, seven appointments ago, I collected/developed a plan to institute a committee at Fargo Faith church that could oversee the care and pastoral work of folks in the church who were homebound, or who were ill, or who had suffered the loss of someone in their family. All in all, not a bad idea, but for some reason, after 31 years, I had some trouble recalling the concept. As I went through the file – rather rapidly, I guessed – I came to a very somber realization: I was retired – I was REALLY retired, and this file was meant to guide me in setting up a church committee. I’m not going to do that – I’m never going to do that again. That was the biggest shocker, that I’m never again going to take over a committee of a local church, and put energy in to try to initiate and train people with a process that was over 30 decades ago. This was long before the proliferation of cell phones, and the only computer at that time held an entire 170 mb of memory. That is slightly less than the single flash drive I have in my desk drawer, that’s 1 terabyte in size. My little drive can hold the equivalent of 5,300 1990 computers.
I sat there at my desk for a moment or two, and then with a nod of gratitude for being given the privilege of serving in the past – I dumped it all in the trash bag. I then proceeded to more files, with more programs, and moved them to the circular file as well. Was it freeing? Yes. Was it a bit strange to burn the bridges to my past work? Certainly. The only files I did keep were the ones dealing with systems thinking, that I still use and review from time to time. I kept those, and with the edict that came down from my beloved wife, I also kept all the sermons I have preached in four decades. I have to say it’s a bit awkward to keep them all – many of them were written out by the hand of a 20- or 30 year old. Having been given the word to keep them, I frankly have no idea what I will do with them now. There must be 10,000 pages of utterly brilliant orations, that I fear no one will ever read again. It’s kind of like keeping your collection of baby teeth from when the boys were losing them. Interesting that when we were going through Mom and Dad’s stuff at their house a couple of years ago, we came across a small tin, and when we opened it – there were the baby teeth of the seven of us siblings, all piled into the can. It’s kind of like the two bins downstairs in our storage that are marked, “Boys’ Baby Clothes.” Cheri can’t go near them, because in times past when we opened the bins, the fragrance of little baby boy clothing and blankets sent her into a good long time of sobbing.
But back to shedding the stuff of the past – and of really retiring. I’m also amazed at the small equipment and cords and whats-its that gather in drawers and in the bottom of the files. Once again, it appears to be ballast – something to keep the house from floating off into the stratosphere. Most of it is not collectible, nor does it even have any meaning, or any memory. A lot of it was moved into the house and put in a drawer or closet five years ago, and has never even been looked at, must less remembered. Don’t tell Cheri, but a good percentage of stuff has made its way quickly and carefully into the black trash bag sitting in my office. It’s time, because I am really retired.
The other problem I have is that I have uncovered gadgets and things that were going to be very helpful in my work as superintendent. For instance, I uncovered “Super Clean.” What is that, you ask? Well, it’s a ball of sticky something, still in its original package. The wording on the package is actually pretty funny, since I would guess it came from China and the qualities were written by someone who “sort” of knew English. Now, let me say right away that if I were tasked in writing the outside of a package in Chinese to sell on their market, it would only be disaster! However, some of the phrases are, “Innoxious!” It tells you that you can “Absorb! Assimilate!” It is a “soft-gums” material that “strongly absorbing dust, hair and chippings…” It is also “Magic! Funny! Practical!” and is a “new cleaning joy!” I remember why I bought it now… of course, they are careful to say, “Don’t Eat!” Good call – and it also says “to keep the adhesion, please let the hand dry while using it…” It has a guarantee of three years, so I may keep it for a while…
Most of us do not live with minimal lives. And we don’t have to, except when we realize we are hanging on to things that long ago lost their value or purpose – that’s the definition of clutter. So, I’ll sort and throw, and try to be as intentional as possible, knowing that it takes a whale of a long time! But, as I am truly, really retired, I think I have time to do just that. And if I find some hair and chippings needing to be cleaned up, I have just the thing, as I assimilate…
Word for the day: adimpleate. Pronounced ad-IM-plee-ate. To find the full meaning, we will need to shred off the different Latin prefixes. Ad, “to or toward,” im, “up, to the top” and plere, or pleo, “to fill, or I fill.” So, adimpleate means to fill, to fill up, to act to fill up. It’s a truly obscure word, that’s rarely used, because, well, frankly, you can just say “I need to fill up the tank,” instead of “I need to adimpleate the tank.” Sounds kind of weird using the second one. Although, it has been used to talk about one’s heart, or life or soul. That becomes far more romantic, and makes the word worthwhile…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.