It may be overstating it to say that I am having a midlife crisis. It’s actually more of a midlife tension, but there are things I need to reckon with. Instead of minimizing this into homey musings, I want to open it up further. I want to let midlife be a time when I grow, adapt and change into the man God wants to form.
An unhealthy midlife would involve sinking into self-interest at the expense of those closest to me. A better approach would be to do some spiritual housekeeping. It’s time to let go of things that I do not need and get ready for something lasting.
You may not be in the critical age range, but every one of us are somewhere in the middle of our lives. What are you in between? The midlife can be a vulnerable and dangerous time for anyone. The sins of your youth can be childish compared to the sins of middle age and older.
Noah got drunk and became an embarrassment to his sons after many years of faithful obedience to God.
The widower Lot got drunk and was seduced by his two daughters.
King Saul repeatedly disobeyed God’s instructions and became a jealous, insecure man with unmanageable mood swings and a tragic death.
King David became a middle-aged murderer and adulterer.
Many more examples exist of men and women in the Bible who behaved treacherously in midlife. Our own era has its legacy of fallen preachers and public figures overtaken by the lure of wealth, lust and escapism.
Instead of being a time to get in trouble, your midlife can be a time of evaluation and growth.
Jesus spoke in many parables and analogies to help us understand the Kingdom we are called to live in. For our discussion of midlife, some of Jesus’ words from Matthew chapter thirteen will help us explore a way of looking at this season. In four quick examples, Jesus describes aspects of God’s Kingdom that give us guidance for living at the middle.
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.
Somewhere in his past, this man discovered a great treasure in the middle of a field. Realizing that it was valuable, he hid the treasure so he could come back later and retrieve it.
Life in God’s Kingdom involves going back with joy to get the treasure. Where is the joy in your life? A man or woman in midlife crisis may have lost their joy. They may sell everything to try and start over with a new partner or go deeper into debt trying to capture the joy of living.
The man concealed the treasure for fear of it being stolen or taken. Instead of approaching the landowner to only purchase the treasure, he buys the whole field. It’s as if the man is looking for his own benefit by hiding the treasure and buying the whole field. He wants to get the best deal. Isn’t this how we often approach God? Because of the great treasure of Jesus, we are willing to buy everything that surrounds Him whether we think we need it or not.
We buy the field of the church, right living and loving relationships with all kinds of people because that is where we find our treasure Jesus. The wise treasure hunter in God’s Kingdom sells everything he has to buy the field containing the treasure. But, it won’t happen without identifying the joy that comes from acquiring the treasure.
The merchant who buys and sells holds on loosely to his ownership of the pearls. He will sell it all when the pearl of greater can be purchased. Jesus is the Pearl of Great Price and the disciples were called to let go of their past religion in favor of receiving Christ and His Kingdom.
Life in His Kingdom involves searching and acquiring. Belonging in God’s Kingdom is not something you did in the distant past and leave unchanged. The born again experience is both instantaneous and progressive. The question is not only, “Have you been born again?” but also, “Are you continuing to be born again?”
The wise merchant is constantly upgrading his treasure stock. When he discovers greater value, the lesser value is replaced. Instead of looking back fondly at a season of zeal and commitment to the Lord, how about exceeding that with a fresh commitment and zeal to the things of God?
Midlife is a great time to let go of lesser treasure. Realizing that dust, rust and moths will soon have their way, we invest our life into that which is permanent. I am starting to think about what I can do that will have eternal permanence.
The existential question is ‘What can I do to make my life count?’
During middle age the primary developmental task is one of contributing to society and helping to guide future generations. When a person makes a contribution during this period, perhaps by raising a family or working toward the betterment of society, a sense of generativity- a sense of productivity and accomplishment- results. In contrast, a person who is self-centered and unable or unwilling to help society move forward develops a feeling of stagnation- a dissatisfaction with the relative lack of productivity.[i]
[i] Erik Erikson, Stages of Psychosocial Development, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erikson%27s_stages_of_psychosocial_development#Central_tasks_of_middle_adulthood