Sunday, February 19, 2012

looking back on a mid-life crisis

It's probably safe to call me middle-aged now that I'm rapidly approaching the half-way point between 30 and 40. My hair follicles got the memo and have stepped up the production of lovely silvery gray hair that started years ago already. I plan to be middle-aged for a good while. But I got my mid-life crisis over with early.

I was reminded of this today when I came across an unpublished post on my old blog. It was sitting in the wings, waiting to take shape, written in the middle of the wrestling that we experienced in the Philippines. It still isn't finished, but I thought I'd share it here, partly because it's wonderful to look back seven years later and be able to say "the crisis is over." And partly to affirm my 27-year old self by giving public voice to her questions. The answer, Carmen, is "yes, that was a mid-life crisis." I guess I can't promise it will be the last, but it was the real thing.

After surfing the web a while in search of a definition, I've given up. Some say mid-life crisis happens between 40 and 50 years of age when a person suddenly wonders who they are. Some say there's no such thing as a 'mid-life crisis'. Another stated that it's a period of personal identity crisis that happens around 40 years of age, give or take 20 years.

I'm 27. It's unlikely that this is a full-blown mid-life crisis that I'm experiencing. Call it what you want. But the dominant feelings are restlessness and a questioning of what direction I'm heading. Having chosen a vocation, I find myself constantly wondering when I can pursue my true calling in life, the purest expression of who God has made me to be.

But where does obedience fit in? I have this nagging suspicion that God's first priority may not be a fast track to self-actualization. So how can I tell?

 I've learned since that self-actualization, if that's what Wheaton is for me, is still a lot of hard work. And I do think that God's first priority is his own glory, not our comfort. Obedience has taken our family around the world and (almost) back and all along the way God has shown us more of himself. I've learned that our zip code doesn't matter as much as the state of our hearts. I've learned that ministry can happen anywhere. And I've learned that while God does have gifts to give us that can only come wrapped in suffering, these are not his only gifts, and we need not look for them. He has armloads of other blessings for us, even when life is "easy." The simple fact is he loves us. A lot. And because of his great grace he leads us into green pastures and beside still waters.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13


  1. Another way to look at it is that God is most glorified when we reflect him as we were uniquely created to reflect him. When we are truly 'self actualized' we glorify him at maximum capacity, as we are doing what he has designed us to do!

  2. Good to hear from you, Jim!

    Yes, I suspect that you're right (and there are, of course, passages that seem to say this very thing). My concern as I wrote the post (both 7 years ago and last night) is that as Americans we can focus too heavily on "self-actualization" as the goal and never do the hard thing that is simply a matter of obedience. God does ask us to do things that are "outside our gifting." For some people that's showing hospitality, or leading, or teaching, or sharing the gospel or living in a culture that is not a great fit for our personalities.

    I suspect that God generally doesn't ask us to spend the majority of our time serving where we are not gifted to serve, but some of the church's most profound writers may disagree (Henri Nouwen, for example?). He is also glorified through seasons of emptiness and brokenness. Discerning when and whether we are called to work outside our comfort zone is one of the trickiest questions in missions, and we've wrestled with it over and over, both for ourselves and along with friends. It's not all about me, and God's highest goal is not keeping me in my comfort, yet somehow in his grace he grants seasons of flourishing growth and ministry in areas that feel like a great fit for me. We need to seek HIM and his will, not our own happiness, but thankfully the two often coincide.

    Be a blessing!

  3. That's a quarter-life crisis.
    To quote John Mayer's "Why Georgia":

    It might be a quarter life crisis
    or just the stirring in my soul

    Either way, I wonder sometimes
    about the outcome
    of a still verdictless life

    Am I living it right?

  4. My mid-life crisis happened at 25 or so . . . half a lifetime ago now!

    I love this line: God's first priority is his own glory, not our comfort. Can I "borrow" that at some time in the future for a one point sermon at Good Shepherd?

  5. Talbot,
    I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only one who got it out of the way earlier in life. (Of course, if Selah is right, you may be due for another crisis here one of these days!)

    You are always free to borrow from my blog. But in this case, I believe I borrowed from you first. Actually, I was thinking of two things as I wrote this post: (1) Larry Crabb's 'Shattered Dreams' because he insists that God is not most interested in our comfort, and (2) your policy that church staff need to help in a serving role at every event. There is value in physical service, even for someone who is more naturally wired for another type of ministry.

    We miss Good Shepherd!!