“In its essence, the midlife crisis is part of a life stage. Sooner or later, as one ages, a time comes when one engages in a process of reassessment. It’s a time to explore and test new choices, generally evoked by a deep pessimism about one’s present existence or future prospects. This pessimism emerges in full force when youth is over and maturity starts to take its place. One becomes discontent about one’s lot in life and begins to believe that what is left is not going to be much better…Men in their midlife crises are usually unaware of being in a crisis. They think they are just making natural changes. And, even if they feel depressed, irritability ity and dissatisfaction usually mask it. They gripe a lot, but don’t see it as a crisis time when they are doing some deep soul-searching.”Archibald Hart, Unmasking Male Depression
“For the majority, the midlife period may mean a crisis of faith of lesser proportions. You question your values, but there is no risk of abandoning one’s faith or family. You struggle to ignore your disillusionments, and your spirituality may suffer a little, but you plod on hoping that all will come right in the end. What is needed here? Hang on. This, too, will pass. Pray for a deep sense of understanding of what is going on within your spirit. Periods of doubt are normal for humans who “only see through a glass darkly.” Remember, this is your crisis not God’s. God hasn’t abandoned you. This is a time for Him to do His finest work in you, if you cooperate.”
Archibald Hart, Unmasking Male Depression
During this period of time, we need a spirituality of “hang in there”. God will never leave us or forsake us. Our values, senses, and beliefs are being refined. Hold on!
“When a recent Pew survey asked what gives Americans a sense of meaning, thirty-four percent mentioned their careers—making this the second most common answer after family. As theology scholar Jonathan Malesic writes, in the United States, finding meaning through work is a concept that has been closely associated with Christianity. But Christian theology may also offer reasons, and methods, to make work less central to our lives.”
We express our humanity and image of God-ness through work (co-creating). The Monks were creative about work and saw it as a penitential, but also looking for ways to keep the monasterary running. They also wanted to make time for communal prayer so they came up with effeciency type of tools to carve out time.
I’m not yet fully convinced of this truth, but I’m convinced it’s what my work is: that my greatest accomplishment will be to claim my belovedness and live it out. It’s the work of hearing, receiving, and claiming the words spoken over Jesus as the Beloved One, as my own.
Ministry has its trappings: Am I good enough to care for others, is my care good enough, is my presence and care making a difference, is so-and-so better at it than me. These voices of shame, pride, and fear choke out the voice of belovedness, causing disruption and ache.
Fear, shame, and pride can take their toll, breaking the spirit and heart of a person. It makes us focus on our own willpower, shortcomings, or lack. These voices cripple a person to the point of depression, hopelessness, or resentment. This year, I’ve had to confess these voices to God in hopes of touching the hem so that I may be rescued. Sometimes all I can do is simply confess and cry out for mercy.
The ache for significance, greatness, and accomplishments is real. Because we are made in the image of God, we long for greatness. But we don’t get to greatness without death/burial/resurrection. We don’t get to greatness without first hearing and living out the words of belovedness, that God is already pleased with us, loving each part of us.
Can I claim this truth to the point where it alters my life? When I’m searching for guidance, discerning next steps in my life, the one work I can count on is claiming this deep truth: I am beloved by and I belong to God. I want and need to hear that in the core of being so that it shapes what I say and do, how I am and how others experience caring presence.
Dear friends, I want you to hear this: what is said of Jesus is said of you. I know this can be hard to affirm. You are the beloved daughter or son of God. Can you believe it? Can you hear it not only in your head through your physical ears but in your gut, hear it so that your whole life can be turned around? Go to the scriptures and read: “I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have written your name in the palm of my hand from all eternity. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you in your mother’s womb. I love you. I embrace you. You are mine and I am yours and you belong to me.” You have to hear this, because if you can hear this divine voice speak to you from all eternity, then your life will become more and more the life of the beloved, because that is who you are.Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment
When I hear this voice of love, it is not only for me to revel in. This voice of love and belonging compel me to share and bear witness. It’s a cup that gets poured out in joy. The movement will lead outward towards the blessed presence of others, proclaiming with them our belovedness. This work will cause us to reflect the divine life of Jesus, the One who renews, restores, and redeems us all.
“God will use all your decisions, changeable and unchangeable, for your ongoing growth and development. There is nothing you can do to prevent God from bringing good out of the raw materials of your choices and the resulting circumstances. God can write straight using crooked lines.”Discernment, God’s Will & Living Jesus: Christian Discernment as a Way of Life
– Larry Warner
I had forgotten about God’s endless grace, mercy, and faithfulness. It’s not a “pass/fail” deal, with God looking down and approving/disapproving. God delights in us and can use our limited capacities to work. It gives me more boldness to dream and try a few new things.
We do our best to discern how the Spirit is leading–working through scripture, discerning how God is already at work and joining Him, having community to process with, and lots of prayer. There are times when I move forward and others when I feel paralyzed. But God taking delight in us…that’s a game changer. The stress and pressure are off the shoulders. The anxiety of “am I doing the right thing” (after we’ve done the discernment work) is lessened when I remember that God specializes in taking the raw material of my life and transforms it for His good purposes (Phil. 1:16, Romans 8:28). Even if I make a “wrong decision” that didn’t pan out, God will work toward growth and development through the process.
Larry’s last line reminds of the poet J. Cole’s song, Crooked Smile. He has this line that reminds of God’s redemptive work with our crooked stories and smiles:
They tell me I should fix my grill cause I got money nowJ.Cole, Crooked Smile
I ain’t gon’ sit around and front like I ain’t thought about it
A perfect smile is more appealing but it’s funny how
My shit is crooked look at how far I done got without it
I keep my twisted grill, just to show them kids it’s real
We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still
We ain’t picture perfect in our decision-making, but we worth the picture. There’s One who takes Delight in us, period.
When life gets crazy, what habits and practices do you turn to for grounding and rootedness? Storms will come and shake us up. No doubt about that.
Dark nights of the soul.
Lack of direction in life.
What or who do you turn to for help and grounding? When you’re in the storm, we may get rattled but we can turn towards our roots that help us make sense of what is happening.
For me, faith, friends, and family are a source of rootedness in the middle of the storm. And I’ve misfortune this year. I’ve had to turn to my three F’s (LOL!). When I’ve felt overwhelmed and lost, I’ve reached out as best as I could.
The other day, I was lying down on the floor, symbolic of Psalm 23 (He makes me lie down in green pastures) and was transported to a field. I felt the wind, the brush, and the Presence. Just then, my son bursted through the door and says in his teenage voice, “Dad, what are you doing down there!?” I told him, “I’m praying, duh!”. LOL!
A storm had just hit our family and I needed to be reminded that the Lord is our Shepherd and that we lack no good thing. I then reached out to friends and family for prayer and shared with them my struggles and feelings. I felt the Presence of the Shepherd with me through my faith, friends, and family. They helped me return to my roots.
During this Thanksgiving season, may you return to your roots that have helped you through the big storms. May we be able to say thanks and give our friends and family the gift of embrace, as they have to us.
The dilemma with trying to write something every day is that I get so busy and don’t feel like I have anything to offer on some days.
Some days that I’ve skipped, I’m struggling with my own personal demons and don’t want to think or write about that. Maybe I should. I tend to learn better when externally processing what is happening inside of me.
I read recently that in the future, we’ll be able to alter our thoughts. If we don’t like a thought, we’ll be able to pluck it out so to speak. I’m not sure that will be healthy for everyone, especially someone like me. In general, we (speaking as a middle class westerner) tend to avoid pain and discomfort. But discomfort and pain have been great motivators in my life. In one example, they propelled me to leave a childhood denomination that was suffocating and crushing at best.
Pain can be a source of wisdom and insight towards changes that need to be made. But it requires listening and attentiveness, something that I’m not always good at.
Recently, I’ve endured a few moments of pain. Some of the incidents have been wake-up calls to hunches I’ve been sensing. Call them course corrections. A mentor said not to waste the pain. I’ll never forget that phrase. Trying not to waste pain in my current dark night.
I’m reading a few books on discernment, specifically because I’m at a place in my life and ministry where I’m asking “God, what is your mission and call for my life.”
I’ve turned to two resources:
Henri Nouwen has reminded me again and again about leaning into the heart of God and his love. These are the most important as we discern. The questions can get heavy. The fears or insecurities of searching for answers can wear on us like heavy towels after a spill. Refreshment comes as we lay the questions at His feet and ask God to help us know His heart and love.
What I tell others who ask these questions, and remind myself with surprising conviction, is this: “God has a very special role for you to fulfill. God wants you to stay close to his heart and to let him guide you. You will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.” New vocations are full of promise. Something very important is in store for us. There is a hidden treasure to discover.
Nouwen, Henri J. M.. Discernment (p. 99).
It’s that middle line that got me: “you will know what you are called to do when you have to know it.” Can I trust that God will reveal it when I need to know it? That’s my prayer today.
As I think about discernment, call, and knowing the heart of Jesus, two thoughts immediately came to mind.
- I’m not someone with all the answers that is present to equip and empower people. But I hope my words, actions, and life do equip and empower others.
- I used to think I needed to have all the answers to people’s questions, mostly so they’d like and admire me. Now I’m okay to say “I don’t know”. I have a few answers, but not all.
The Bible has a big picture story that is tantamount when trying to understand the small tidbits. I remember reading a rabbi who said that you could understand the whole of the Bible by reading the first 3 chapters of Genesis. There’s creation, fall/sin, redemption, and a new thing (renewal, consummation). These are really big themes and they help when we’re trying to understand the small things.
I’ve needed help trying to wrap my mind around who Jesus is and why He matters. Some say to keep it simple and maybe it is. But it doesn’t seem simple to me to ask the questions and seek answers.
I still struggle to understand why Jesus died for our sins; meaning why it took death. I know all the scriptures and have heard all the statements regarding the topic. But I still wrestle with why it had to be this way.
NT Wright, a historian and theologian from England, has helped me understand some of the big pictures themes. I’m currently reading “Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters”.
He’s asking questions like who did Jesus think He was when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey? Or that in some ways, the current culture is asking, “Who do YOU say that you are, Jesus?”
I grew up in church and I’m still asking, “Are you who they (gospel writers) say you really you are?” If He is, there are deep implications for this. For one, the Bible says that sin and death are defeated. This implies that is some sense, sin and death don’t have the last words in our life. That implies that you and I are immortal! Think about that one for a moment. What this looks like, I’m not completely sure. But NT Wright keeps saying to look at the resurrected life of Jesus for hints. It seems Jesus’ body is glorified and He then must ascend to the Father. I often tell people who are grieving that in my faith tradition, we say that death doesn’t have the final say; that while it hurts to lose our loved ones and that death seems to be winning, it doesn’t have the final say.
As I discern next steps in my calling and ministry work, I’m faced with the question of who Jesus really is. My calling and ministry work are in some ways forcing me to ask. If I’m going to continue to devote the rest of my life to following Jesus and helping others follow him (and in some instances, trying to persuade others to follow Jesus), I need to keep digging into this question of who Jesus thought he was. My life, career, way of being is at stake.
These next few weeks, you’ll see some posts related to the book I’m reading and how it’s impacting my thinking and living.