When you announce your retirement to the ones you work with and love, all kinds of shifts begin to happen. Some are expected and some are surprising.

What is expected is the pain and frustration of pastoral separation. Living on the inside of people’s emotional and spiritual lives is both a privilege and a challenge. Sharing the weight of people’s tragedy, crises, disappointment and sorrow resident in my heart and soul has been immense. Since you cannot have a garage sale to unload, what do you do with it? I’m working on that with God.

But here is a surprise. In forty years as a priest, every moment I had to read, view, listen or experience a book, article, documentary, play, symphony or exhibit, I always focused on its usefulness for a sermon, class, Rejoice article or as a resource for ministry and mission. Now I am experiencing a conversion that is wildly liberating. I no longer need to focus on what I experience in terms of its value to the church…Now I am relaxing just to experience it for the value of being alive and delighted by it.

Moral of the story? When you smell the roses…smell the roses for no other purpose than they are beautiful and fragrant and delightful and for no other reason than they are God’s gift to you. You will not be billed or need to write an essay to some office of accountability for the sheer pleasure of smelling. Then you will experience yet another of God’s gifts: freedom to enjoy being alive!