Sometime the days just seem to run together. Today was one of those days. I slept later than I wanted to, and then messed around the house, drinking coffee and paying a few bills. The next thing I knew it was time to get ready for work. I didn’t get the run in I wanted. The grass was too wet to cut the grass and then it was off to work. I don’t like working in the late afternoon and at night. But at least at night I can get something done in the afternoon. For some reason traffic was bad, and what should have taken an hour, took an hour and a half. I’m glad I left early. Then the simulator broke, and I was scrambling all the rest of the period catching up. I did finish my students, but it was a hard day. The good news is I have a job. I really feel bad for all those out there who have been “downsized” into unemployment, or at my age, you say “early retirement”. I remember when I retired from Delta. I didn’t want to, but with the way everything was going with the company I felt that I had to in order to protect as much of my retirement as possible. It turns out I was right, but even knowing that you made the right choice doesn’t make it feel any better. I can remember the day clearly even though it was over 7 years ago. I had met with my financial advisor, looking at all the different things that could happen. I had been praying about it, and Julia and I had talked about it. After I got through talking with him, I felt that my path was laid out for me. I should retire. So I told him what I was going to do, and I began to prepare. I wrote my retirement letter to Delta and started thinking about the future. I don’t remember if I faxed it to them or not. I do think that I told Scott, my neighbor and good friend who is also a Delta pilot. Julia was out shopping and I figured that I would tell her later in the day.
Here is a little piece of advice to all you married men. Always tell your wife first. Never tell other people anything important before you tell her. When I picked her up and we were on our way to dinner I casually mentioned that I had made the final decision and had talked it over with our financial advisor. Well, the temperature in the car dropped about 20 degrees. We were going to eat Chinese at a restaurant in Marietta. She was silent, and didn’t’ talk for a long time. We sat in the restaurant across form each other. I thought that she was going to bore a hole through me with her eyes. Of course, I realized the mistake the minute I told her, but the cat was out of the bag, how could I put it back in? Well, I couldn’t put it back in. So here I was trying to explain why I already thought she had been informed. After all, we had been talking about it for a month or so. But it’s hard to persuade someone when you know that you were wrong. I wasn’t wrong to retire, just wrong not to bring her into the loop before the decision was official. I think that night was one of the longest dinners I ever had. I didn’t think we were ever going to talk again. I knew I had blown it, and I apologized, but it was going to take more than that. We were going to meet someone, and that was no fun. We had to pretend that nothing was going on, when both of us just wanted to leave and go home. Well, we did work it out, and I did retire. But retiring early leaves a funny taste in your mouth.
I thought I was ready mentally, but I wasn’t. I didn’t think that I had allowed my job to define me, but I had. I had been a pilot for over 30 years, 25 with Delta. I had no idea how much my identity was wrapped up in flying. Now I wasn’t flying. Who was I? Sure I am a believer, and I thought that my identity was in Christ. It is now, but it wasn’t then; at least not completely. Men are funny that way. It seems that from the time you are a boy, it’s not who you are, it’s what do you do. We let our jobs define us. Only when we finally realize who we are in Christ will we ever be able to get rid of the idea that our job defines us, and also defines our worth to society.
I guess it was at least two years after retirement before I began to get a true picture of who I am. When we have the wrong picture, we can do many foolish things trying to maintain an image that doesn’t exist. I didn’t do anything illegal or immoral, but I did make some stupid decisions during that time. The key is having a strong identity in Christ. We men and women need to realize that our identity is in Him, not our jobs, not our kids and not our stuff. All work is honorable if we are doing it for His glory.
So I do thank Him for my job. It pays very good for the time that I work. It allows me the flexibility to be off when I need to and to be involved in ministry. This job is a gift from Papa, and I am very grateful. But I am even more grateful tht He has allowed me the wisdom and grace to know that it is not my work that defines me, it is His love, and His calling on my life. That is what is important. As long as I keep Him in the center, I will be OK.