Mid-Life Seizures are Painfully Strange

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Life is so brief. 

And it never appears more so than when you cross this strange threshold of being middle-aged.  Reflecting on the first half of life a variety of things flutter around in my head.  

Does what I'm about to say sound familiar to anyone else?

In the next four to five years all my kids will be done with school.  I may even be a grandparent by that time.

The past didn't seem to go by incredibly fast.  But the future certainly feels that way.

All of the sudden priorities come into focus more sharply.  It can happen for some in their twenties.  It seems to happen for most in their 40's and 50's.

There's this awful thin line between defining the most important things in life and trusting God how things work out from day to day.

There are mid-life seizures which take hold of me from time to time.  I ask myself hard questions.
  • Who having you been living for?  Who are you going to live for?
  • What in the hell are you doing with your life?!
  • When are you going to get your shit together?!
  • Where are in heaven's name are you going in life?
  • Why on earth are you spending your time doing that?
  • How are you going to pull off those things you feel deep down inside?
  • How often are you going to need to climb out of that pothole or go around that block?
These questions are a double edged sword.

On the one hand they wreak of human effort, human plans, human arrogance, human performance.  I could add another question to the mix: how many times will I ask myself these questions and feel the disappointment?!

On the other hand, they feel very much like important questions for someone my age right now.  Beneath the heavy-handedness there seems to be a kernel of truth that brings Ephesians 5:15-17 to mind.

"So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do."

And there it is.  "Understand what the Lord wants you to do."  The next verse tells me how.  "be filled with the Holy Spirit."  It's a present tense verb in the Greek, and it means to keep on being filled.  The ability to live carefully, wisely, opportunistically, thoughtfully, with an ear to the voice of the Lord is found in a filling of the Spirit.

Yet there's a rub.  And it chafes me in my soul.  It's living as a pinball, bounced around in the oddities and circumstances of life, yet at the end of the day being bumped by one of two paddles.  One gently reminds me to be filled with the Spirit so I can hear him.  The other asks me when I'm going to get my shit together, but never actually defines what that "shit" is.  At this point in life I'm regularly reminded of that Proverb which says that man plans his steps but God directs the course of a man's life.

Middle-age has become a season in which I seem to bring up desires that have been deep down in my heart for years and attempt to put them in motion.  Crazy ideas like, "Hey Rob, pursue that second career in the Army Reserve as a chaplain, even though you're 45 years old" stir the invigoration I felt at 25 years old.  Yet I can see in my mind's eye the older me putting the calming hand on the shoulder of the younger me saying, "I know the Army says 47 years old is the cut off, but let's walk this carefully."  Crazy stuff, right?

This stuff is going on inside of me while simultaneously creating spaces for me to learn more to hold the Father's hand and maintain a steady gaze on His goodness.  It is that goodness that keeps a middle aged man calm and peaceful.  Psalm 27:3 is becoming a bedrock: "Yet I am confident I will see the LORD's goodness while I am here in the land of the living" (NLT).

I've resolved long ago to become the most peaceful man on the planet.  I have no metric to see where I am currently.  But the more I center myself on His goodness, the more peaceful I feel.  Here's to hoping and praying that next half of my life will not be wasted but poured out in love for others out of that sea of peace I seek to float on and swim in...week by week...one month at a time.

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