Mid-Life: Cause for Crisis or Contentment?
Finding God Through Meditation (Week 5 of 7)
Consider…the continual motion of our life, never resting night nor day, but going forward without ceasing and every day more and more wastes itself; so that it may not unfitly be compared to a candle, which, by little and little, consumes itself, and when it gives the clearest light, the sooner it approaches unto its end; also a flower, which springs up in the morning, at noon fades and at night wholly withers away. – Finding God Through Meditation, p. 68
Mid-Life: Cause for Crisis or Contentment?
CAUTION: Reading the above anywhere on or around your 45th birthday can cause cold sweats, shortness of breath, even hyperventilation, heart palpitations, dry mouth and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.
Just what I needed.
Today is my 45th birthday.
By now, I don’t have to read the saints to recognize the continuity (even monotony?) of life. Sometimes I feel the end barreling toward me, faster than I can gain traction. Ruled by the routines of daily life, I find myself riding the slow motion train of our family schedule as I watch the years streak by through the passenger window.
In The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Screwtape — a senior devil intent upon winning every soul for his “father” in hell — describes my ailment perfectly:
The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather. You see, it is so hard for these creatures to persevere. The routine of adversity, the gradual decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes, the quiet despair (hardly felt as pain) of ever overcoming the chronic temptations with which we have again and again defeated them, the drabness which we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it — all this provide admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition.
Apparently, Satan is wearing out my soul.
Do you sometimes feel that way? That life just keeps going and you just keep trudging along, without success in some areas and without satisfaction in others? Perhaps Satan is wearing out your soul too.
Well, let’s refuse to go down without a fight. They say the first step toward change is acknowledging the problem. Problem acknowledged. And let’s go one step further. I’m willing to wager that I even know why I suffer from the decay of youthful loves and youthful hopes. At the base of my problem lies a propensity toward a certain sin. Perhaps you’ll be able to identify.
For years I’ve been attached to a sin that C.S. Lewis describes elsewhere in The Screwtape Letters:
“…nothing throws him into a passion so easily as to find a tract of time which he reckoned on having at his own disposal unexpectedly taken from him…he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen.”
The sin is pride. Of course. And I don’t know about you, but in my life pride manifests itself in trying to control time – something that really isn’t even mine to control. Rather, it is a tool to be used for God’s purposes.
Do you begin your day with every minute organized and accounted for, with not a moment to spare on the “nonessentials?” What are the nonessentials? Nonessentials tend to include anything that is not on the list. Sadly, in my home nonessentials have included a child coming to me with a problem while I’m in the middle of a chore. Or someone who needs a hug while I am sitting at the computer. Perhaps yours include a husband who would like to spend time with you or a wife who deserves five minutes of affection?
But that’s only part of the problem. Often our obsession with time is not limited to the day to day demands of life. It can become the basis for our entire framework toward life in general. Do these phrases sound familiar to you? …When the kids get older…when the kids grow up…when the bills are all paid…when….when…when…?”
We spend an inordinate amount of time living for another time.
Perhaps the basis for a midlife crisis is that realization that when may never come? That life consists of many miseries, including suffering and death – something that by middle age has become more than apparent as we witness friends and loved ones around us?
In our twenties, death wasn’t even a thought. But in our forties and beyond, we can see it sitting right there on the horizon. It may be blurry, and we may not think about it daily, but it’s there. And we know there’s no stopping our forward progression in that direction.
But as Christians we also know that life is not about squeezing everything we can into the time we have before death knocks at our door. Life is not about NOW. Now is a tool that God has placed at our disposal to help us get to heaven. The term Now or Never has become a slogan for generations of souls who have forgotten this truth and therefore have gone on to lose their way.
We will not follow those souls. We can even look at that horizon and see a finish line – for us death is not the end, but rather a new birth into our eternal life.
Today we are going to create a game plan for the rest of our earthly lives by reiterating some basic truths. Let’s begin here:
Now is not about me. It’s not about my goals, my dreams or even my sufferings. Life is not about now.
Now is but a speck on all eternity.
Life is about forever. Life is about heaven.
Yes, death may be hovering in the foreseeable future but we have this moment; and in this moment we can alleviate any fear of that day by getting back to the basics.
What are the basics?
The basics can be found in any First Communion Catechism. Let’s review the first few questions:
- Who made you? God made me.
- Did God make all things? Yes, God made all things.
- Why did God make you? God made me to show forth his goodness and to make me happy with Him in heaven.
- What must you do to be happy with God in heaven?
And here it is – the answer that trumps our silly obsession with time. The answer that brings us back to square one. The answer around which every moment of every day should revolve.
To be happy with God in heaven I must know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world.
That’s it. Life is really very simple. Keeping these simple things in mind can create joy and help to avoid any wearing out of the soul. All we have to do is keep our eye on the ball.
So today, on my 45th birthday, I am making a pact with God.
If He promises to lift me up when I fall, I pledge to do the following:
I will not give into a self-centered, desperation-driven secular-invented mid-life crisis.
- I will recognize life as a gift.
My life is not my own. My life is a generous gift, that, if managed rightly, will allow me to share in God’s goodness and to be happy with Him forever.
- I will recognize how God is asking me to serve Him through my vocation.
I will love my husband. Not grudgingly. Not with resentment. Today, I will write him a note, make his favorite dinner, ask his opinion and make our time together a priority. Further, I will love my children. Not in a rush. Not with an ulterior motive. Today, I will listen to my 16-year-old and play Barbies with my 4-year-old. I will spend time being, not merely cleaning. I will become a mother again and not merely director, time management consultant and maid.
- Most importantly, I will be grateful.
There was a time when we were struggling financially. My mother’s words of wisdom? “When you go into the nursing home, you only get one suitcase.” In other words, don’t sweat the small stuff. Things don’t matter. She must have read St. Peter of Alcántara:
The Last of these miseries is death, both in respect of soul or body, a thing most terrible, for in this moment the body is disrobed of all things in this world.
From this moment on, I vow to be thankful for every gift I’ve been given, from the very gift of life, to the gift of my vocation, my family and home in which the Lord chooses to bless us at this moment. I will be thankful even for the trials and tribulations that life brings, especially those which drive me to my knees. Rather than using trials to turn from Him in despair, I will thank Him for each and every one, using them as an opportunity – not to run away – but to draw always nearer to my true Home.
Are you with me? If this pledge doesn’t apply to you, create your own. But whatever you do, please don’t allow Satan to wear out your soul. Just remember, a pledge is not about feelings. It is about decisions. It is about taking action. Actions that will bring the kind of joy we long for, because we’ll be doing those very things for which we were created.
1. How did the readings this week cause you to reexamine your own life?
2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
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