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  • Sonya Leigh Anderson

Repenting (& Retiring)

There is a difference between repentance and confession. I learned this (again) this past week. It started with my last blog post, about “not retiring”—and continued as Holy Spirit conviction a day or so later. My post was an encouragement to some of you, which is grace. You commented, and you shared my words, and I’m grateful. Because what I wrote was heartfelt, and honest. But it was only half the story. The other half happened later.

What I confessed was pride about job and vocation and unfinished education, and how I’d felt an underachiever. All true, but only partial in terms of actually laying the thing down. Because what I confessed was (a) acknowledgement of pride; and (b) an arrogant proclamation. I am not retiring. REALLY? And here is the heart of this tricky matter.

Holy Spirit getting my attention, and I’m hearing Him loud and clear.

It STARTS with retiring.

No kidding.

And there in that moment I could see my own arrogance like a sickness, and it made my stomach hurt. A full day of confessing my sin like I was truly sorry. Confessing to friend over a cup of coffee. Confessing in my car, out loud. Silent confession as I did my work. Until. It was over. No more need to sit in condemnation, because there’s a point where you have to tell the enemy it’s finished, too. And I knew. Grief of confession gives way to joy of repentance and I know I am moving in a new direction. I am forgiven. I am also released.

The next day I wake up with wind in my sails. Retired pride and ready to love. I start with a garage, long neglected. My husband and I have been making our mess for well over a year, and his “retired” parents have been nothing but gracious. Cheering on our projects, and tripping over our boxes, and more than once I’ve said it out loud, “I don’t think I could let my kids do this to me.” Now, finally, time to load the truck with fixtures and faucets, clearing space for order, sweeping up the last of sawdust. And the funny thing is how his mom admits to enjoying her newly cleaned space, but is none too ready to see us leave.

There is so much love in her genuine comment, and there is my husband, back in the kitchen, helping himself to a leftover casserole, leaving his dishes, again, in the sink. And I’d tell him, “Your mom doesn’t live here,” except that she does.

Yesterday Mom got a new knee and she’ll be two nights in the hospital, maybe three. And for a short time, maybe, we’ll get to return the favor and give care to our caregiver, although if last night’s text was any indication, she’ll be bound and determined to regain her feet. By Thanksgiving at least.

We are days away from a finished house, and weeks away from a potential move, my husband’s hip surgery scheduled for the first of November. We’re hoping for the miracle, nearly promised, everyone saying how it’s relatively easy, and it should make him feel like a brand-new human. And I will admit we are hoping for another go at if-not-quite-youthful at least middle-aged-active. After all, we’re moving to a virtual mountain, three stories of staircases and some pretty impressive stone steps from driveway to front door.

But I AM retiring. Ready to embrace a new season of calling, and a new season of loving, with as little pretension as the Spirit is willing to allow. A night or so after my day of repentance I dreamt about my book, and I woke with a new sense of God’s affirmation of vision. Of course, I do not know what tomorrow holds—house plans or book plans or the outcomes of so many surgeries. But I do receive His gift of vision—hands wide open, releasing all expectation right back to Him.

And I think about a beautiful white-haired lady sitting at Grammy’s dining room table, and I know now, if I could do it over, I’d thank her. I would receive her gift, and “Yes, I will join you in your retirement.” Because it is only there, with nothing to prove and nothing to gain, that I am fully and truly free.

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