Coping With IPR (Involuntary Premature Retirement)

In the spring of 2008, I experienced the onset of a disorder for which I was totally unprepared. The symptoms reached maximum severity during the first year. After that, the intensity subsided, but the symptoms have persisted. While uncomfortable and discouraging, they are not, so far, totally debilitating.

The disorder, which seems to be on the rise among people (especially men) of a certain age (55-64) is commonly known as IPR—Involuntary Premature Retirement. I have pursued several avenues of treatment, and while their effectiveness has varied, none has resulted in total eradication of my symptoms. With each passing month, the possibility of full remission becomes more and more unlikely.

Among the most vexing symptoms is the sudden absence of a regimented schedule which can lead to a feeling of uselessness and, in extreme cases, a complete loss of self-worth. To combat this possibility, I have tried to stay busy with things like preparing for Anglican Holy Orders and writing a book. In addition, I have managed to devote a substantial amount of time to the discipline of thinking.

I recently took the time to sort out and organize some of the varied threads that have occupied my thought processes throughout the seven years during which I have been indisposed. The more I think about these things, the more the variously colored threads, slowly but surely, have taken on the form of a woven tapestry—an intentional design rather than a random array.

Out of this process of rethinking nearly everything I have ever believed about virtually every aspect of my life and faith, three cardinal truths have emerged. I list them here without further comment. I will likely expand on each of them in future blog posts as part of this October potpourri.

For now, here are the three most important truths I have learned (or re-learned) in the past seven years.

  1. The older I get, the less certain I am about a lot of things, and I am not troubled by that in the least. In fact, I’ve concluded that certainty very often breeds arrogance, while honest doubt yields humility and deepens faith.
  2. The kingdom of God is the overarching reality that gives meaning and substance to both my faith and my efforts to live out the implications of that faith in daily life.
  3. In every human endeavor involving more than two or three people, the quality of leadership is the key to success. The “quality” I am referring to is primarily a matter of character and only secondarily a matter of gifting and skill set. The “success” of which I speak is measured according to God’s standard, and that will often turn a mere human perspective completely upside-down.

See what happens when you have too much free time to think. More anon.

 

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