I turn 46 this year, loosely ensconced in my middle age years, on the downhill slope to 50. I’ve thought a lot about this season of life, primarily from the standpoint of committing to passing the baton and investing in the Church’s younger generations. But I’ve also thought a lot about the peculiarities of this season of life, how for many it holds such uneasiness and insecurity. I’ve thought about the so-called “midlife crisis.” I used to think it was a weird thing that (mostly) men in their middle ages feel suddenly drawn to sports cars and career reinventions and (worst of all) trading in their wives for younger models. These things have become midlife cliches.
I still think that phenomenon is a weird thing, but I think I understand it a bit better now. Midlife brings new insecurities and awakenings to long-dormant regrets. Many of us face empty nests and the prospect of, in effect, starting over with spouses we’ve only related to for so long as co-parents rather than as partners or friends. Many of us face the reality of aging parents and any fears or worries or responsibilities that come with that. And of course we daily face the reality of lost youth, waning strength, more difficult processes for maintaining health. Time moves a lot faster the older you get. That’s a cliche too, but it’s true.
By God’s grace, I don’t feel the need to buy a sports car or to make a career change or to blow up my marriage. But I do think a lot about the distant past and the quickly approaching future. And I don’t know how anybody handles these things without walking with Jesus.
In midlife, Christ is a consolation for all the things I wish I’d done differently. He doesn’t change my past, but he can redeem it. And I’ve discovered he is faithful to do that. He does not judge me by my actions but by his own, freely given to me in love.
In midlife, Christ is a companion through all the worries and stresses. I’ve gotten more serious about my health over the last year and a half, and while I have no illusions about having the strength and energy I did at 25, I have no doubts that my friend Jesus is as strong as he’s ever been, and wherever I have to go, I know he will go with me. There is no partner like the King of the Universe who will never leave me or forsake me.
In midlife, Christ is a constant encourager. His Spirit has been bearing fruit in my life all along, and the longer I walk with him, the further down the narrow road I wander, the sweeter I find him, and the more precious. As so much is wasting away — including myself, day by day — his renewing presence sustains me, cheers me. I cannot imagine getting old without the daily newness of his mercies.
And I can’t imagine dying without him. Or, actually, I can. And that idea makes me increasingly happy that I know I won’t.
I would think I should be more sanctified by now! But I am grateful that the One who began the work in me will be faithful to complete it. That glorious truth is the only real antidote to the potential crises of middle age.
If you’re on the front side of middle age, I encourage you to begin investing in your friendship with Jesus now. Don’t put off communion with Christ. He’ll still be there, waiting for you, if you do — assuming you even make it to middle age. But imagine yourself in those days of thinning hair, stubborn paunch, creaky bones and joints, callouses of hand and scars of heart, having walked closely for years and years with the Savior. It will make the middle age something to savor.