My Next Chapter

/uploadedImages/Business2/Images/odonnell-james_forweb.jpgWhen I came to Huntington in the early-to-mid '90s, the question I was asked more than any other was, "Why did you come?

"I felt called," I responded. And I meant it, too.

I said lots else, but a sense of call was at the very heart of why I came.

In the ensuing years, with all my wife Lizzie went through, that sense of call was only strengthened by the abiding community of love and support we received right up to Lizzie's death in January of last year.

These days, however, I'm now asked, with a similar frequency, "Why are you retiring?"

Well, for one, I'm a geezer. Or a "sort-of-geezer." I'm 64. Not all that young to be considering retirement.

Yes, I could go on more years, if God gives me time. But more than anything what has led me to my decision is the profound message that prayer gave me while tending my Lizzie.

For if Lizzie's long illness and ultimate death taught me anything, it taught me that time is not my friend. Most especially now: I have less time ahead than I've already had.

It's also taught me that neither you nor I will always have sunny days or good health; that, in many ways, the gift of life is not much more than the gift of time, and what we choose to do with the time God gives us.

And we don't know how much time we will get.

I've also learned that God is real, and that God is good, and that He still performs miracles, as He did in giving me, my boys, and many others the gift of Lizzie for so many more years than her best doctors thought she'd get.

But it has also taught me that we cannot waste the good gifts of life and time that God has given us in sadness and in regret over what cannot be changed.

For many, retirement becomes a time to finally do things that we may have wanted to do so much of our adult lives but didn't have the time. For the truly blessed, it may also involve doing some of those things with someone beside you who has traveled life's sometimes crazy road with you, raising kids, balancing budgets, helping others, seeking to please God.

For some time, however, I had suspected that I would not get to spend much, if any, of my retirement, with Lizzie. I came to accept that. And now I want to try to move forward, and think I am ready to do so.

Teaching at Huntington throughout Lizzie's illnesses was such a blessing. It helped me focus on what I could control. It gave me a delightful sense of mastery of important things that helped sustain me in caring for Lizzie, where I had so little control.

What this next chapter of my life holds, I really don't know. Neither did Abraham. But I know the One who will hold me in and through it.

I am glad that I will remain part of the HU community. I'm grateful for the many students whose lives I had the privilege to impact for good, I hope. I'm especially grateful for the several each year I got to call "friends." I'm proud of so many of them and what they are doing and trying to do to impact this world for Jesus, especially in the often-misunderstood world of business and profit-centered activity.

I am not selling my house. I plan to live in Huntington, I also plan to speak at and for HU for years ahead, or at least for as long as the school and our Lord want me to.

I am one of the fortunate ones to have been given the opportunity to do so much in life, to have loved and been loved so well, to be a father, husband, investment geek, professor. I've also had good health, stamina, resilience, and some courage to try new things. God has been very good to me. I trust that He will guide me and carry me every step of the way ahead. And if He wishes for me to do some new things, I trust he will make that clear enough to me and give me the grace and tools to do what He wants.

Thank you to so many, many people in the far-flung HU community who have traveled beside me for almost two decades while I have taught at Huntington. Thank you for your kindness, your encouragement, and for your prayers. I'm a grateful man. I'm also a lucky duck to have gotten to spend such a slice of my life on this campus and among the likes of caring saints like you.