by Ron McDonald, Pastoral Counselor
Samaritan Counseling Centers
Three persons, all middle aged, were overheard in dialogue.
"I've accomplish just about every vocational and financial
goal I set for myself during this first half of my life,
yet I'm not sure success means anything."
"As for me, I've been working hard all my life, and I've got nothing much
to show for it. I'm sick of it!"
not even in control of my emotions anymore. When I feel
terrible, which is much of the time now, I'm either mean
to others, self-loathing, or filled
with anxiety. It's not good."
are expressions of the three most typical kinds of mid-life
crises. They are questions that can't be easily
answered: in midlife we question
meaning of life; the fairness of life; and why we do bad or stupid
things when we want to be good. Midlife is fundamentally
about finding some integrity
our lives. Can we affirm life when it doesn't look as rosy as we once
thought it could be?
Jesus cried out "My God, my God, why hast
Thou forsaken me?" he
was giving words to the inward protest of everyone's midlife experience.
Part of midlife is the inability to avoid suffering, unfairness, and
doubt. We just
can't ignore it anymore. Jesus' own response to this protest was
a new perspective. He next said, "It is finished," which
means it is enough; it is completed. Jesus, moving out of despair,
had a vision
of the integrity of his life, and
his final statement from the cross--"Into Thy hands I commend
the answer to the question of integrity.
is not about fairness. It is about living in the hands
of God. What does that mean? It means
that we are open to possibilities
our lives are
meant for a higher purpose, and that our selfish desire for recognition
or success is not nearly as important as the sacrifice that will
required of us when we truly answer God's call. That call might
be of obvious
importance, or it might be answered in secret, but our task at
all ages is to be ready.
If all you are called to do is to pick up a child who is hurt,
then if you
can join Jesus in commending yourself to God, you can also join
Jesus in his
vision of the completeness of his work. Our purpose on earth is
not grand--not even if we become President. Our purpose
is to commend
even when we can affirm life despite doubts, unfairness,
and suffering, we still run into the question-- How did
we get the
capacity to be
evil, and how do we manage to rise above it? Carl Jung called
this the encounter
one's shadow--the dark side of one's self.
of the most profound paradoxes of the Bible stories is
that those who would
be our exemplars of the faith were, at one time,
and women. Jacob, a swindler, was named Israel. King David murdered Uriah,
Bathsheba's husband. Solomon created a system of slavery. Peter
three times. Paul was an accomplist to the unjust execution
of Stephen. We
are not called
to be perfect. We are called to repent and to know
that, but for the grace of God, we can do some terrible things.
answer to the encounter with one's shadow is humility in
our evil side, and the subsequent inability to
be judgmental. And
we can become filled with God's grace.
is a tough time, for when faced with the inevitable decline
death, we encounter some tough questions.
to be found in getting off our high horse and accepting
the fact that our success or recognition
is not what connects us to the
with God when we humbly prostrate ourselves before the
who accepts us just as we are.