FIFTY. Sounds old. Is old. Should feel bad. But, doesn’t. Incredible. Compared with turning forty. What a paradox.
Without any doubt, the fiftieth year has been the most challenging. I’ve been reduced to the boy more this past year than any other adult year — I think. I’ve had to let go of pride. No great loss. Made better for surviving a series of trivial humiliations. Letting go of things that were never mine. Letting go of other things that were only mine yet should never have been.
I had my midlife crisis at forty. Two months of depression leading up to the day 40 came. My poor new wife had no idea who I really was. Frightening for her and I alike. Kicked in the pants by a shrewd therapist (which was what I needed) on August 9, 2007. Then God put the lights on again through Proverbs — an eighteen-month adventure of mystery and discovery that created within me the passion to write. Haven’t stopped since. And all I did was read Proverbs eighteen times. But one thing I’ve learned: never say never, though I’ve had to learn that again and again. I’ve had to accept, in some areas, I’m a slow learner; an early adopter, but a slow learner.
The period of the past 343 days or so has encapsulated a massive excursion of reflection — of positive cognisance of who I am, rather than what I hadn’t achieved (which led to the calamity at 40). God took me out of the arena for such a time as this has been, and He plunged me into another, the Refiner’s fire. It’s like turning 49 was serendipitously the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I still cannot explain it. It’s how God works in my life; the miraculous is blissfully inexplicable, often borne through the bowels of pain.
I promised myself I’d get in shape. My diet has changed a lot during the past twelve months. Some patterns for health established. But more than that. I’m in better shape for the things I’ve had to do that I didn’t want to do; for the times I’ve found myself at the end of myself, with no empathy for the pathetic shadow I’d become. Each time though, without knowing how or why, God resurrected me, without my even anticipating it. I didn’t get what I deserved. (I deserved dirt.) I ended up so much better off. Each and every time.
I’ve read and listened to a lot of Richard Rohr, Paul Washer, Jean Vanier, David Platt, Eugene Peterson, A.W. Tozer, Charles Swindoll, Henri Nouwen. A diverse range of voices. I’m trying to let go of my dualistic thinking, living more intentionally for eternity. But I still judge too quickly, too often. Yet I accept that if I’m not there at fifty maybe I’m not meant to be. And still I’m becoming more aware.
I’ve learned to place my mind in environments my mind doesn’t like. To heal my heart of its predilection for comfort I’ve come to learn something. I’m becoming healed by enduring the humiliation of the things I hate. Healed by being immersed in what I’d prefer to reject. Voices of others I don’t like. Bearing them. Views of people that are opposite to mine. Appreciating them. Learning a grace that only God can give me. A peacemaking grace. The grace of taking my time, of others taking their time, of suffering the indignity of patience. Pouring contempt on my not-so-inconsiderable pride.
Over the past decade, God has shown me the importance of holding my death near. Having a young child has accelerated the urgency to stay alive. I think about my eternal destiny more now than ever, about when I’m gone, but my quest for making the most of the living moment has also been an undulating journey. The beauty in a thought-free, sensual consciousness, where God exists and that’s all that matters.
So, with just 22 days until I become a quinquagenarian I’m comfortable in my body, mind and soul. Comfortable in my discomfort. Contented in my little story.
Mystery awaits. Hope abides. Ignorance allowed. Serenity remains. Amid letting go.