Make the Most of Your Midlife Crisis

By November 19, 2009 culture, language No Comments

Breath for the Bones Book Club: Thoughts on Chapter 8

Humans are creatures of habit and routine. We develop certain patterns and rhythms in life, some for good, some for ill. It takes a miracle of mercy to boost us up and out of the ruts we’ve worn.

The routines carry on until one day, midlife is all about us. Our feet have plowed a furrow so deep the ridges grow tall on each side. That’s when panic sets in as the haunting comes to question what we’ve done with ourselves, our lives, our time.

Some try to scramble up the sides to try out another pattern, thinking that they must have simply chosen the wrong path.

Others sit in the dirt and mourn, thinking that all is lost and pointless.

Many—most, perhaps—begin to find safety and comfort in the routine, thinking that meaning must be in how well one adheres to the pattern.

But none of these responses brings fullness of life, because each one looks for life’s meaning within the rut itself. Ruts breed familiarity, but they do little for stoking the passions of life.

In “Learning to Risk,” chapter 8 of Breath for the Bones, author Luci Shaw says that “fullness of life in arenas of art and spirituality demands that we let go, that we relinquish control—something that goes against the human grain, particularly in a culture obsessed with empowerment” (107).

Yielding control is never comfortable, neither for the Christian nor for the artist. Artists may be less likely to yield to popular convention, but that doesn’t erase the fear of the unknown. Even the artist can seek security in repetition. Art can grow stale; the creative trail can grow cold.

Art, as well as life, requires an infusing of purpose and vigor and vision. As a Christian, I find this infusing from the Spirit of God, from the well of Living Water that is at work within me. It is His prompting that nudges me to live fully when I would seek solace in the ruts. Life and vitality is fueled by discovery—of ideas, experiences, perspectives, landscapes, thinking. And because God is infinite, eternal life is found in Him, where discovery of His matchless love and beauty and grace and wisdom will never cease.

The creative impulse is essentially innovative. It’s always discovering new areas to explore. It experiments . . . [with] a kind of risk . . . that many Christians are afraid of. (Shaw 112)

Fear clamps down on creativity and drowns out the spirit of adventure and exploration. To avoid the fear, we look to familiarity; familiarity soon becomes routine; routine becomes rut. And so we find ourselves once again facing the earthen walls that bring safety—and boredom.

That’s when the midlife crisis hits. How we tackle it will define our lives. Will we abandon our responsibilities in search of a better rut? Will we give up and sit in the mud? Will we strive to perfect the routines and patterns?

Or will we relinquish our lives to God, asking Him to empower us to risk—love more passionately, live fearlessly, serve others selflessly, take creative leaps of faith, and explore the wonders of God and His creation?

The fight against mundane living is waged when we choose to embrace the discomfort of growth and follow the whimsical promptings of the Spirit. Discomfort is embraced when we stop to listen to opposing opinions or take a run in the rain or seek God in the unknown of solitude or do something unexpected and uncertain with no guarantee of success—all of which require us to put aside our preconceived notions and our bent for safety and practicality and routine.

All growth implies and requires change . . . into unknown territory, a step into the dark. (Shaw 109)

Instead of avoiding fear through routine and rules, Jesus beckons us to render our lives into His hands for safekeeping. Once tucked into His grip, we are free to face fear head-on—and choose to embrace fullness of life with all its beautiful uncertainties.

Yes, even the midlife crisis can be redeemed in the hands of God, for our good and His glory.

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