The Real Midlife Crisis
God never gave anyone a new past. But He delights to give new futures. - Greg Opean
I celebrated my 40th birthday last week.
I am on the outer edge of the Millennial generation, the subset that grew up without internet for the first half of their lives. Without computers. Can you imagine?!? I used an actual map and a stick shift to drive everywhere. If I didn’t know something, I looked it up in a full encyclopedia set and heavy dictionary. I hopped on a plane on my 18th birthday (before terrorism on planes was a thing) and landed in the middle of Europe without any cell phone to translate, locate, or remember my passwords. I didn't need passwords. When I felt sick, I was cured with a can of chicken noodle and a bottle of ginger ale. I re-watched VHS movies pirated from PBS. When I was bored, I read books made of paper. I heard the news at 6 pm. Most of my correspondence with my future husband was by snail mail. I shopped at the mall. I had a Myspace page and a Hotmail account. I had cassettes, cds, then Napster. I held my breath for Y2K. Kale and butter were both on the naughty list. Hairspray was big.
Somehow I survived.
Now that I'm 40 -
I can’t buy a turtle or a parrot for a pet; it might outlive me.
I have pimples and wrinkles at the same time.
Some of my peers have grandkids. Some have babies of their own. Some have both.
Staying in is often more attractive than a night out.
I count the cost. For everything.
I'm still buying diapers, but talking about my parents’ end of life plans. In the same day.
I buy shoes for comfort first.
I remember when “woke” was just a verb. So was “cringe”.
I remember when “Selfie” wasn’t a word. Period.
I have turned down the music in the car so I can see better.
Kids think what I wore in high school is cool. Again.
I’m old enough to be President.
I'm old enough to know being President wouldn't be fun.
Forty years is a long time.
The problem with having lived four decades isn't so much a matter of time but of familiarity. Once you live a while, you get used to it.
You get complacent.
At least I do. I'm 40 after all.
Don't get me wrong, I‘ve had more than a few mountaintop experiences, literal and figurative. I even lived in the Alps for a while. I’ve fallen in love. Birthed babies. Seen a lot of the world. I've done some amazing, beautiful things.
I‘ve also slogged through some deep dark valleys and deserts. I once got lost in the Sonoran desert in Mexico for a long hot afternoon. I’ve submitted my young son to strangers for three emergency brain surgeries so far. I’ve lived hand to mouth and had no money to fix the heating system, fridge, or car that all broke in the middle of a New England winter. I've done some sinful, regrettable things.
But those weren't the whole of what really made up 40 years. They were moments, good, bad, or ugly. But just blips. Most of my life isn't made of big things. Not really. It's been the mundane. The daily stuff. The chores and habits, the waking up and putting feet on the cold floor to do it all again. It's been living through messy hormones, piled bills and laundry, hyperactive children. It's choosing to do homework, to do dishes, to be present - or not. To read my Bible every day - or not. The big momentous occasions gave my life shape, but the filling, the density, is every action and feeling and thought in between.
The danger is treating "normal" cavalierly - as if all the little stitches in the cloth of each day didn't matter. But if I counted them as nothing, the day would unravel quickly. Life would fall apart. the Bible bestows so much more honor on faithfully doing small things rather than patting folks on the back for big accomplishments.
Every little stroke of the paintbrush is needed to create the final masterpiece. My tendency is to belittle the dabs of dull hues, grey shadows, the nameless tan that fills the canvas. But they make up the majority of the picture. Without them, my life would look like one of the finger paintings my 3 year old creates in a moment. A few stripes of the brightest colors and she's happy. Somehow, she can't get anyone but grandma to appreciate the final product. If only I'd let her add glitter... But at 40, I know better.
We are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
I live in a world desperately seeking to numb all the daily life. Maybe I always have. But it seems like we've used the last several decades to hone our options. To pacify the stress of life by binging a season at the click of a button (or a word to the ambient robot on the shelf). To relieve the burden of thinking through issues with the cacophony of social media. To bite our tongues lest speaking truth trigger our neighbor. To dull depression or angst or excitability with drugs. I wonder if I know a single person who doesn't take some sort of pill daily, to regulate some hormone, or stimulate some latent ability, or squelch overactive tendencies. I bet you at least pop a multivitamin. I do.
I'm 40 after all.
And that's the irony. How blessed I have been to have four decades of mostly-boring, normal years on earth! My heart has continued beating for over 14,600 days - since I was 20 days old in my mother's womb. Every day I have thought, felt, moved, breathed, and interacted. Not one second was unnecessary to make up the sum total of 40 years. And I dare to take them most of them for granted!
I live a miracle.
The greatest crisis of my middle life is to fail to count every moment a gift and not a given.
Even when there's glitter, or mud, or pain, or abominable bits of styrofoam packing strewn all across the basement.
Again and again, men extol God for a particular trait.
His faithfulness. His steadfast love.
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!
I can attest to 40 years of faithfulness. Not on my part. I’m fickle. Emotional. And prone to numb my way through time. How dare I?!? I will not always live within the moment, within a timeline. He has given me 40 years of NOW.
My job is to live it.
Not to abuse it, not to sedate or ignore it. But to use it fully. For His glory and my good.
By His faithfulness, I will.
Perhaps for 40 more.
Minus the hairspray.