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I loved Jered Wilson’s column at The Gospel Coalition where he explored the problems men face in approaching midlife.
At 61, I am beyond midlife and firmly entrenched in geezerdom. But, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t experience some problems as I approached 50.
The first thing I remember is the feeling of absolute uselessness and emptiness when my youngest daughter moved out of our home.
For years, I literally counted down the days to 6-7-8 (June 7, 2008), the day she would graduate from high school and I would be “free, free, free at last” of all my parental responsibilities. Less than 100 days later, she was headed to college and my heart was as empty as her bedroom.
For nearly a quarter century, my daughters gave me a tremendous sense of purpose.
Why did I endure jobs I didn’t like? For my daughters. Why did I endure an endless litany of princess movies? For my daughters. Why did I turn down an opportunity to build a successful business in New Mexico? For my daughters. Why did I go deeply in debt trying to keep the family from disintegrating? For my daughters. Why did I accept Christ at age 35? For my daughters.
I felt like the ringmaster of an absolute circus for a number of years that involved racing home, gulping dinner, dropping off three kids at three different activities, waiting an hour, then picking up those same kids from all their activities, racing home, struggling to enforce bedtimes, and contending with homework assigned weeks earlier, but due the next day.
When the house was finally empty, so was my heart. When my wife decided she loved another man, that was the icing on my 49th birthday cake.
“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,” Jered wrote.
“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,” he added.
“I don’t know how anybody handles these things without walking with Jesus,” Jered wrote. “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.”
I know exactly what Jered meant when he noted, “the longer I walk with him, the further down the narrow road I wander, the sweeter I find him, and the more precious.”
I am grateful that, like Apostle Paul confidently wrote in Philippians 1:6, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.”
I am sure Satan maintains a scroll of all my mistakes and acts of rebellion, as well as those times I failed to live up to what I could have done with less fear, more faith and a little extra effort. But, I still have Jesus.
The past 12 years after my divorce have been hard and painfully lonely. But, that has worked to draw me even closer to Christ.
Like Jered, I can also imagine what it would be like to die without Jesus. There is no doubt that I would not have made it this far in life without him. The level of Jesus’ patience and grace continues to confound me every day.
Hebrews 12:1-3 offers lots of encouragement for men approaching middle age, enduring that season and recovering from it:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
If you have Jesus in your life, you may still experience a midlife crisis. But, fortunately, even in midlife, Christ is!
Jered Wilson’s column can be found at The Gospel Coalition.