Caleb: Transitioning to Retirement
How does Caleb’s example challenge and encourage you as you look toward retirement?
Military retirement is a significant transition point for both the Service member and their family. The story of Caleb’s retirement centered on God’s plan for his life. He looked to the future with enthusiasm and optimism. This week’s study reminds us of the importance of our faithfulness today, so that at the end of our journey, we may receive your blessing.
About This Journey
Much can happen during transition, and in the journey between change and acceptance, we can get stuck in the struggle to want everything settled—now! Taking the time to see God in the midst of the transition is important. Recognizing He is setting the pace, even when you cannot see Him, is the best reassurance.
This Week's Readings
Caleb: A Man with No Regrets
Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old.-Joshua 14:6-10
He did not have a photo showing how long his hair was before he joined the military. He did not use a PowerPoint slideshow to trace his career from the proud smile on his face from initial training graduation, through various promotions with significant friends, to his last official photo displaying his awards and decorations. But in his own way Caleb reflected on his years of service leading to the occasion in today’s passage where he was ready to transition to a new era in his life.
Caleb recounted his faithful service to Joshua, the leader who succeeded Moses. Of those present, Joshua best knew Caleb and his life. Out of twelve men sent out by Moses to spy out the land promised by God, these two were the only ones left—the ones who had declared that, with God’s help, the Israelites could defeat the armies they would face. The other ten spies, with the majority of Israelites of military service age, had outvoted Caleb and Joshua. Now all those who chose not to follow the Lord’s plan had died in the wanderings in the wilderness. Caleb’s summary was not only to remind Joshua, but all the Israelites, that God is faithful to those who determine to serve him.
What did Caleb highlight at this point of transition? His faithfulness to follow the Lord, even when his peers did not. He spoke of God’s promise to bless him and his family with an inheritance of land. And he reminded everyone that he had given forty-five years of faithful service with no regrets.
Military retirement is a notable accomplishment and a significant transition point for both the service member and their family. A retirement ceremony allows for a pause in mission to provide opportunity for a person to recount and reflect on the most important aspects of a career. Along with accolades, awards, and accomplishments, the person who acknowledges the hand of God and help from the Lord is the one who is best prepared for the next step off the parade field into the civilian community.
If you have attended a military retirement ceremony, what were the elements that made it meaningful? How important is it to reflect on the past during a significant transition?
Lord, remind me of the importance of my faithfulness today, so that at the end of my journey, I may receive your blessing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23a). Amen.
As Strong As Ever
And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming.-Joshua 14:10-11
If you see your husband standing bare-chested and flexing his muscles in front of a mirror on his retirement day, just humor him. Though the military demands a high standard of physical fitness, the physique on display in the mirror is probably not the one with which he started his military career. Caleb, on the other hand, professed to being as strong at age eighty-five as he was at age forty. People did live longer in biblical times, but you might have to check with Mrs. Caleb, who saw him behind closed doors, to know if he was talking about pure physical strength.
Regardless of your perspective, I have heard it said that retirement is not for weaklings. Caleb approached this major life transition—from being a traveler in the wilderness to becoming a settler in the promised land of Canaan—from a position of strength. He could still fight like a warrior and carry out the daily duties of life.
Good health gives you more options when transitioning to retirement, but strength of character will help you step into retirement on the right foot. Successful military service demands fortitude, yet the same strong determination to make a significant contribution with your life is a key to fulfillment after your ID card changes categories.
The strength between your ears and the courage inside your chest is more important in a major transition than the size of your biceps and the firmness of your abdominal muscles. Acknowledging the Lord as your source of strength will give you boldness like Caleb to see your transition to retirement as the next step in God’s plan for your life.
Why is it important to be a wise steward of physical health as you think about retirement? What are your goals for your physical health into retirement years?
Lord, help me care for my body, so I may be strong enough to live out your purpose for my life, as long as I dwell on this earth. Amen.
A Rocking Chair or Giants
So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.”-Joshua 14:12
What do you see when you transition to retirement? A rocking chair on the back porch or a huge challenge filled with giant obstacles? If anyone had the right to ask for a rocking chair, it was Caleb. If the parents of those around Caleb now had listened to him when they left Egypt, they all could have enjoyed the good life in Canaan. As a reward for trying to do what was right, Caleb had to travel through the desert for forty years while he watched his peers depart the earth. Yes, if anyone could have said, “I deserve to take it easy now,” it was Caleb.
But Caleb did not ask for a rocking chair. He asked for the hill country where Hebron was located. Before he could enjoy his mountain retreat, Caleb would have to defeat the Anakim—also known as GIANTS—who lived in fortified cities. It would be difficult enough to tackle the task of conquering a fortified city, located on high ground, using swords and spears. Add giants to the mix and you intensify the challenge! Caleb entered this life transition by setting the bar of success exceptionally high.
Our communities need retiring military families to set high bars for success in civilian life. A friend of mine recently retired from the military to accept a position as a middle school teacher. Talk about a challenge! Another person I know enrolled in a graduate degree program to better equip herself to help others. Second-career military retirees are found everywhere in our society from local pulpits to state legislatures. Any profession that needs a person to step up and lead the way is ideal for someone who has made a career of stepping up as military families have done.
Military retirement is not just a retirement from the military; it can also be a transition to the next phase of life. The day may come when getting all the way to the back porch to sit in a rocking chair is about all you are capable of doing. Until then, set high goals for the next phase of your life. Do not let giant obstacles and fortified barriers discourage you from reaching for the heights. The military encourages setting goals and finding ways to reach those goals. Military retirement means leaving the uniform behind while taking the can-do spirit with you.
How has military life helped you set and reach goals? What goals do you have for life after military retirement?
Lord, as I look to the future, help me make goals that align with your will and purpose for my life. Amen.
Then Joshua blessed him, and he gave Hebron to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for an inheritance. Therefore Hebron became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite to this day, because he wholly followed the Lord, the God of Israel.-Joshua 14:13-14
But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.-Numbers 14:24
Caleb had a stellar reputation with God—and God’s people. God took special notice of Caleb early on when he pronounced his judgment on the Israelites who chose not to move immediately from Egypt to Canaan because they feared the inhabitants. God declared that none of the men who came out of Egypt would set foot in the Promised Land, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. Singling out Caleb, God said, “He has a different spirit and has followed me fully.” Forty-five years later, God attributed Caleb’s success in the transition to his inheritance in Hebron directly to Caleb’s choice to wholly follow the Lord.
Scripture uses an interesting Hebrew word to describe how Caleb followed the Lord. Both of today’s Scripture selections use the same root word. In Joshua 14:14 it is translated as wholly and in Numbers 14:24 it is translated as fully. The word describes something that has reached full capacity. In his commentary on Joshua, Kenneth Gangel explains that the word is a nautical term to describe a ship with all its sails full of wind pushing straight toward a location, no matter what.
When my husband and I first moved into military quarters, we were setting out in uncharted waters. We believed that this major life transition was God’s will for us. I did my best to fully embrace the role of military wife. After nearly thirty years, traversing the globe as a military family had become the comfortable norm. Charting a new course out of the military and into retirement seems like sailing into unfamiliar waters once again. However, I am determined to fully embrace this new phase of God’s plan. Following God with full sails is the key to success in times of transition.
God said that Caleb had a spirit different from his peers. Having a passion to fully follow the Lord was the exception in Caleb’s day, and possibly in our day. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Living out our love for God by following where he leads can help us approach a major transition with a fully committed attitude. Who knows? We may even get a reputation like Caleb’s.
What does wholly following the Lord look like to you? How does Caleb’s example challenge you as you look toward retirement?
Lord, as the psalmist declares: “Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart” (Psalm 119:34). Amen.
Set Up for Success
And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife.-Judges 1:12-13
My friend Victoria repeats (and practices) the statement: “Set them up for success.” The “them” to whom she refers are young military wives. Upon military retirement, Victoria’s husband became a civilian contractor at the local military installation. As a retired military spouse, Victoria remains active in the military community, but her role has shifted from prominent leader to prominent mentor. She uses the knowledge and experience she gained during her husband’s years of military service to mentor young military wives. She has not tried to hold on to assumed power because of her longevity. Instead, she teaches classes, facilitates leadership retreats, and spends many one-on-one hours encouraging young women to be leaders in their homes and communities. She sets them up for success!
Caleb was a leader who set others up for success. Consider his actions with Othniel in Judges 1:12–13. He did not hang on to his position nor look at the next generation as a threat to his power. He fought alongside the younger men to rid the land of giants, but he knew it was time for a transition of leadership. He communicated his confidence in the next generation by presenting a challenge to them that would require risk, but would produce great reward. In offering his daughter’s hand in marriage, he found someone who would care for his daughter when he was gone. Caleb may not have known who would accept the challenge, but he offered his full support to the one who did. We find in Judges 3:9 that the Lord later raised up Othniel as a deliverer and leader of Israel. Scripture suggests Caleb played a role in educating and preparing the next generation to enter the promised land.
As military retirees, whether you decide to settle close to a military installation and stay involved in that community, or you completely “civilianize” your life, you have much to offer others. Your life as a military spouse has afforded rich and varied experiences that can bring a perspective from which others can benefit. Formal mentoring programs can be helpful, but the best mentoring takes place when you make yourself available to listen and offer support. You may not feel like an expert at military life—or life in general—but you can be a positive influence and a champion for young women in the throes of a new job, a new child, a new home, a new marriage, or a new relationship with Jesus.
In what ways do you set others up for success? How has someone set you up for success? What does Proverbs 27:17, Psalm 145:4, and Psalm 71:18 say about setting others up for success?
Lord, give me a willing heart that eagerly sets up others for success. Prepare me to be a champion for the next generation. Amen.
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- Small Group Resource: Directed 2 - Leader's Guide
- Small Group Resource: Directed 2 - Participant's Guide