Midlife — crisis or chrysalis?

Midlife — crisis or chrysalis?

Is this all I am ever going to do?”

Have you ever had this thought? If so, you might be approaching midlife, or maybe you already got there. Where is that exactly? Well it keeps moving because people live longer and healthier, but for most of us it starts anywhere from your forties through to sixty‐something.

Of course the idea that there might be something new to do isn’t limited to middle‐age but it is often a feature of middle‐age. Some people call this time of re‐thinking and longing a crisis. But good things come from a crisis.

Gerald Marzorati is one example of a man who did something new. Late to the Ball is his story of how, aged 60, and complete with arthritis, tendonitis, and flat feet, he decided to become a national tennis player. Before this, he had played amateur tennis for a few years only. I haven’t read his book, and I’m rubbish at tennis, but I think I know the midlife feeling.

Midlife tennis star

Crisis or Chrysalis?

I am in my early fifties but when I was approaching the five‐oh I had that “is this all I am ever going to do?” moment — in fact lots of them, over many months. I was struck by all the ideas I had put off as a young man till later, all the things I was “too busy” to do, and even things I felt God calling me to do but … not just now please. They all appeared at once, as did the realisation that doing them “later” suddenly didn’t seem very practical.

Not all mid‐lifers go through this unsettled phase but many do. Mid‐lifers are not “old” (…of course not!) but we can see old strolling down the road smiling amiably and waving at us … And we don’t want to greet him just yet. For many, especially in their 50s and 60s, careers are settled maybe tailing‐off, mortgages being paid off, children on the verge of independence – they will always cause us worry but there seems less we can do for them — and bodies are often healthy if not youthful. So …

What’s next?

We keep hearing that we are living longer and in better health than ever, so a reasonable question to ask is “what do we do with this windfall lease of life?”

I heard some retired folks talking about their “SKI” plans – I was impressed until I found out it meant Spending the Kids Inheritance .. it seems by going on lots of holidays. If that’s you, OK, but surely there are other things to do as well as throwing money at cruise operators and faster cars?

FlipFlop1

You have more skills than you probably think you have. You have learnt them from experience. You have perspective. You even remember how to communicate face to face, not just electronically as our young millennial friends do.

What do others say?

Ann Morisy a theologian who writes on aging talks about us being settled in our identity. We are secure with who we are, and ….“with this security we become less defensive. A reduction in defensiveness brings with it new energy and stamina as well as emotional robustness… and significant gains in relation to spirituality”. She adds“…best placed to commend the Christian faith are those who have experienced the ups and downs of life and still choose to follow Jesus”.

Reinventing yourself is ageless.

Beginning his studies for an MBA in his 40’s Timo Marquez says: “Reinventing yourself is ageless. Some think it stops after a certain age but in today’s fast‐paced world, reinvention (in learning, approach, etc) is very important”.

And my friend, Christian Psychiatrist and fellow‐blogger Sunil Raheja speaking on lessons on turning 50 points out that God in fact only started using Moses, Abraham and others rather late in life.

A new page

Reboot your life!

Since you have read this far, ask yourself this question:

What do I care about most — aside from things I am paid to care about?

Family is an obvious answer, but family may be less dependent on you now so what else do you care about? The answer should provide a helpful clue to where God wants you to be next. Take some time. Consider that God has something new for you to do (something even better than that cruise). Here’s a few ideas:

  • Study part‐time. This 88 year‐old man did. If you don’t have a degree, now is the time. If you do have one, well this time study something you are REALLY interested in.
  • Look at all the volunteering opportunities — from giving time locally to starting your own charity to really make a difference as my former Pastor and his wife did in their 50s.
  • Short‐term mission work can provide a signpost for the future and a worthwhile end in itself. See for example BMS or Tear Fund.
  • Have you previously had some preaching, teaching or pastoral‐care experience? All our churches are keenly promoting the ministries of part‐time lay minister, lay reader etc.

… and if this applies to you, invest in becoming an astonishing grandparent!

The question that matters is not how old are you but how much enthusiasm do you have? Take a risk – there is time yet for another big adventure. Giving up a settled life is a bit scary but the best adventures always are!

Midlife chrysalis

If you enjoyed reading this, try reading this real‐life story of journeying and wandering: The Boulder.
This articlewas also published by Premier Christianity and The Baptist Times
Images are from Shutterstock. Butterfly emerging from Solent

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Mart DeeJoe GallantSunil RahejaAngelaChris Goswami Recent comment authors

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Andrew Thomas
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Andrew Thomas

As a man who is 41 in a few days…THANK YOU!

Dylan
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Dylan

In my case there is a wish to do something more, if you’re very lucky that can mean options such as you outline. I think we also need to be aware that not everyone in the “squeezed” middle class have the luxury of this choice. Often just taking a Friday off now and again is a luxury as we work longer to maintain our positions.
My wife and I almost have a bucket list of things we just never got round to doing …better get cracking !

Angela
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Angela

Brilliant blog – thanks Chris. I was remarking only the other week that I’m ready for a new challenge at 65 … and behold I was asked the next day to teach our older teens group at church. That’s not a new challenge for me but one I hadn’t anticipated at this time.
… And it’s much easier to be grandparents than parents — and very special!

Sunil Raheja
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Thank you for some great ideas Chris! The key I think is to be intentional and build on our life experiences to date — the good, the bad and the ugly. As I understand myself and the ways God has moulded and shaped me, then I can also look to and have a growing awareness of those “good works He has prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Joe Gallant
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This is a good read. I particularly enjoyed the quote suggesting that those who are later in life are often ‘best placed to commend the Christian faith’ because they ‘are those who have experienced the ups and downs of life and still choose to follow Jesus’. I think these people may also have learned from decisions they’ve taken — things they may have done, or indeed, not have done. These lessons can serve as invaluable wisdom to those who still have so much time, and so many options, ahead. Though I can’t fully decipher why, it would seem that ‘mid‐life’… Read more »

Mart Dee
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Mart Dee

Excellent — as always mate!