Monday, September 17, 2007

"What is Midlife Crisis?"

Joe was asking about midlife crisis, and what that means for Christians. “What’s the deal with Mid-life crisis?” Do Christians go through it? Is it mentioned in the Bible?

“Midlife Crisis” isn’t just a middle-aged man wearing a toupee, elevator shoes, and driving a Gremlin. And it isn’t just for men anymore. America isn’t visited in the Bible. I hesitate to throw our cultural baggage onto ancient saints, as if they went through Midlife Crisis. They were of a different culture, with their own difficulties.

Midlife Crisis comes in our mid to late 30s, (though health crisis or loss of a parent may bring it on earlier). American false gods are different than in other places. “Midlife Crisis” comes to Americans because our false gods have started to show their true ineptitude, and their promises’ emptiness, around the time our bodies pass what we have defined as “our prime.” To the extent we Christians have bought into this culture, we will suffer a Midlife Crisis. And sadly, many at this time in their life, make wrong choices, causing themselves and their loved ones pain.

Tell the folk you see going through it, that like puberty, Midlife Crisis is only a phase. It will pass. Maybe this second “puberty” happens because we take in so many lies, during our first puberty: Lies about who we are, what defines our worth, and what constitutes success.

Midlife Crisis is like a great shifting of earth. If you’re going through it, please hang in there! And please don’t make any life-changing decisions at this time! Wait for God’s peace again and then you’ll see clearly if and how to make life adjustments.

Jesus promised that storms would come to all, and that it’s important to have our lives built upon Him. He is to be our foundation. But to the extent that our lives are built on our shifting earthly cultures, we will feel it. Jesus said:

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Matthew 7:24-27

Young people, to avoid having a Midlife Crisis, be doers and not just hearers of God’s word! One false American god is “Youth.” Hollywood tells us “youth” alone is beautiful. Why is being over 30 and “not looking your age,” considered a compliment? That is a cultural thing. Most cultures of the world, honor age; they look to elders for wisdom, and guidance, and value them. Each age has its beauty. These places don’t have our Midlife Crisis. But here, when “youth” leaves our faces, we panic as if God has abandoned us. He hasn’t. “Youth” has. Crisis!

China was great for my midlife crisis! Suddenly, I was seen as rather grotesque with my pointy nose and pale skin. On days I actually felt dapper, I could count on someone to say, “You are less evolved than we. Just look at the hair on your arms!” Sometimes people were afraid to sit next to me. This was great to get Midlife Crisis over with quickly.

One day our friend Abdulwali came over with a favor. His mother had a shop in the bazaar and had received a shipment of facial cream from America, to sell. The instructions were in English, and they needed translating. As I started translating, I must have looked very serious. I wasn’t used to using Uighur words for, “sex appeal,” “unsightly wrinkles,” or “baby’s bottom.” The shaking of the sofa woke me from my concentration. Abdulwali and his brother were holding their stomachs from laughter. “Tom, you are so funny!”

I explained that I wasn’t joking, pointing seriously to the jar, and that just got them knee slapping. I had to laugh too. This jar was insane. Later, holding a jar of this weird stuff, they asked, “Why would my grandmother want to look like she was 16?” (More laughter). “Why would a married woman with grown kids and a husband, want to run around with “more sex appeal?” (Frowns, at the implications). “Are not wrinkles like white hair; proof that one has lived long and well?” “Youth” was a foreign god there; not understood.

“Career Success” is another of our false gods. Around midlife, younger folk may start passing you up the proverbial ladder. You may not even want to do another job. But there is that felt need, to be promoted. The prodigy you once were is now being passed over. It feels like failure. Why? I left grad school and went to China where I was functionally illiterate and spoke like a 7 year old. My sense of self worth suffered. Why?

Though a believer since age 22, I have had lots of input from American culture, with its many false gods. Thankfully, our God silences lies. Midlife Crisis, for the Christian, means that liberation is near!

If you are in pain over your lost “youthfulness,” questionable “sex-appeal,” or, if your aging ankle is stuck in a rung of the corporate ladder; and if it hurts, I offer you Jesus. He is Truth. God has so infinitely better for us! Midlife Crisis offers us freedom from false gods who we’ve visited when we should have known that America is not really our home. They’ve called out their lies to us for years. Now is the time to be done with them!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Galatians 5:1

These are not our gods. God wants His children free. Is He not the great “Refiner’s Fire?” God promised to send Jesus to us. He would save us! And He would change us!

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. But who can endure the day of His coming? Who can stand when He appears? For He will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver. He will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver. Then the Lord will have men who will bring offerings in righteousness,”
Malachi 3:1-3

What a promise! We in Christ are the priests (Levites) of God! God’s Holy Spirit, through Jesus’ blood, cleanses us completely, so that we can better serve God. We need to be shaken, refined, and set free. Consider those in Hebrews chapter 11, so commended for their faith: They were not citizens of any earthly kingdom; but had given themselves wholly to citizenship in Heaven; adopting Heaven’s culture. These were willing to be different. We are expected, as citizens of Heaven, to join them now. We are to cast off every false god, and serve only the Lord.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.”
Hebrews 11:13-16

God considers those who are born anew, to be citizens of Zion, His land. I encourage you to get to Psalm 87, and sit with God, and let it sink in. You aren’t from here.

There is a great picture of an event that awaits believers when we get to Heaven. Let’s always consider what we are building upon:

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”
1 Corinthians 3:11-15

Thank God for midlife crisis! Our work will pass through the flames on “that Day.” When my turn comes, to see my works tested, I don’t want the Angels to have to hand out asbestos and dark glasses, announcing, “Stand back for this one, saints! Wayyyyy back!!!”

Not just midlife, but we in Christ should always be welcoming the shaking off of anything not built on Christ. Thank God for this time of shaking! Let us see whatever is not built on Jesus fall off, so that we can recommence building. But now building only upon the Solid Rock. Amen!

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