Hi there! It’s been a while since I’ve written. Not just for my website, it’s been months since I’ve written anything.
Like everyone else, I’ve been busy. But the whole truth is that I’ve been busy having a midlife crisis. Not a major one. Not the kind where I abandon my life and my people. Nor the kind of midlife crisis where I buy something really expensive to distract me from troubling thoughts and emotions.
I’m just experiencing a run-of-the-mill, forty-something, midlife crisis that provoked me to retreat into my thoughts. Questioning and over processing everything. Evaluating and examining every decision, and every investment of my heart and soul so far – family, friendships, purpose, calling, work, vocation, ministry. And feeling like so much, especially me, comes up short.
The existential ponderings of my personal crisis are so cliche that it’s almost comical, and yet the struggle is indeed real.
But I am also discovering that there is comfort in the overused expression of midlife as a crisis, because everything I’m wrestling with connects me to the shared experience of aging. And viewing my midlife crisis as a shared experience reminds me that I’m not alone.
The proverbial midlife crisis seems to be a communal rite of passage – like puberty, #adulting, and receiving your welcome letter from AARP (formerly the American Association of Retired Persons…which I recently learned arrives – unsolicited – in the mail shortly after your 5oth birthday).
Rites of passage are important, as they create opportunities to reaffirm solidarity with our community. As we participate in this hard work of continually maturing, transforming connections are made as we share our raw and unfiltered thoughts with trusted friends as we pass through the portal of a major life milestone hearing the words “Me too”.
Almost everyone my age is evaluating the fruit of whatever they have poured their heart and soul into the past 20 years – whether it be marriage, family, career, ministry, or something else. Us 40-somethings all seem to be scratching our heads and asking the same questions.
Beginning with something like, “Really???”
Followed by, “THIS is what a 20 year investment in _____ looks like? Huh. Not what I expected.”
And then the resulting feelings range from disappointment, to dissatisfaction, to despair. Cue the midlife crisis.
During my own season of midlife crisis, it is tempting to simply berate myself for whining – because nothing in my life is truly horrible – and then get on with it. But I do believe that when we wrestle with unbecoming feelings rather than convincing ourselves that we are foolish for having them – beautiful growth eventually blossoms from owning unhappiness and letting it teach us something we need to know.
The trick is keeping ourselves tethered to the wisdom of God and others who speak constructive truth into our discouragement and keep us pointed in a healthy direction while we wander in our lament. You can read more about how I participate in this type of soul work by clicking HERE.
In my recent months of existential crisis – evaluating and questioning the point and value of everything that makes up my life – I’ve been steadfast in praying and reading and talking and listening and thinking. All the while my belief has remained strong, and yet being what I believe has been much harder.
The gap between genuine belief and actually being hopeful, peaceful, joyful, and loving feels like an immense desert.
In her book “When the Heart Waits: Spiritual Direction for Life’s Sacred Questions”, Sue Monk Kidd describes her midlife struggles and how God nurtured and protected her weary soul through the process of cocooning – or active waiting. And while God was always with her – equipping her with strength and endurance – the work of emergence was hers. Because the God who created everything knows that once a caterpillar completes the wonder of metamorphosis, it’s final preparation to thrive in the world as a butterfly can only be completed by making it’s own way out of the cocoon. If a butterfly is rescued from it’s cocoon she will never gain the strength she needs to survive long enough to fulfill her life’s purpose.
I think the same is true for metamorphosis-ing forty year olds.
And while I feel like I still haven’t made my way to the end of this dreary desert, the blurry image of it’s edge far off in the distance seems to be taking shape.
One of my favorite verses is found in the book of Deuteronomy, Chapter 2, written about the Israelites wanderings in the wilderness for forty years between fleeing the tyranny of Egypt and entering The Promise Land:
“Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have made your way around this hill country long enough. Now turn North.'” v. 2-3.
They still had quite a distance to travel until they reached the end of their desert experience, but the season of aimless wandering was over.
It’s time to turn North.