From Middle of Life to Center of Truth
Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Managing Editor
Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD; may your love and your truth always protect me.
Hebrews 12:1-3, NIV
I turned 40 a couple months ago. Woo-hoo.
You'll pardon my "enthusiasm," I'm sure. One thing nobody tells you about turning 40 is that you ask yourself a lot of questions, sort of a checklist of making sure you have certain things right before proceeding to the most meaningful half of the game. It's like you're in the locker room at halftime of life - bandaging injuries, reflecting on the strategies of the first half - both failed and successful - and considering your options as you re-emerge to the field.
One upside of this odd time (one of my most awkward since adolescence; think of me as a teenager plus a modicum of wisdom, confidence, and gainful employment. I even found a couple of zits this week for goodness sakes) is empathy. I wouldn't call what I'm going through a "mid-life crisis"… but I now understand why some people have them. I wouldn't say that agnosticism is any kind of answer to the meaning of life… but I now understand why people gravitate to it, conscientiously or not. I wouldn't say this life is the point or that this world is our home… but I get why people begin to make the most of the time they have left as they see the clock running down.
The downside, however, is that I find myself prone to thinking I'm smarter than I am, to thinking so much depends upon me, to buying into answers that are all at once beyond biblical teaching in both complexity and sanity. My like-it's-on-hormones brain has me wondering about...
Dinosaurs, definitions of marriage, death, love, whom I've loved, whether I've loved, addictions, exercise, accountability, honesty, privacy, sexuality, inerrancy, accuracy, cosmology, biology, psychology, mighta-beens, coulda-beens, shoulda-beens, woulda-beens, fairness, facts, food, euthanasia, hip dysplasia, adoptions from Asia, character, selfishness, and yes… even shiny new sportscars.
Take any one of those categories - plus many more - and I've been bogged down thinking about it. Some of my thoughts challenge my own beliefs, beliefs I've long held as established, settled. Some of my thoughts wake me up to new possibilities, or things I haven't done yet that I may still be called to. But in the end all these ideas remain merely…
Biblically, those just aren't very trustworthy words. So what do I do now?
The same thing I've always done - come back to first principles. Study the old verses from childhood. Memorize scripture. And be really, really honest with friends and acquaintances. That authenticity, though, is a new ingredient, one that is making this halftime speech much more meaningful, bearable, and shared.
But at its root is just the same formula from which I deconstruct everything: something happened in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas over 2,000 years ago that sent plain old uneducated men to the corners of the earth convinced that everything - life, meaning, all time and all space - was on the line, and there was a Truth worth dying for. They did this because they knew a man who was also God, whom death could not hold, and who offered an amazing gift to anyone who would faithfully open it. And there's this book about those men, and the One in whom they believed, and no matter how many questions you seem to have about this book or how it was put together or who wrote it or whether its teachings are fair or right, one thing is for sure - it spoke in advance of the One who came, and in Him it becomes a whole lot clearer.
And the same God who caused all that to happen wanted the rest of the story told in certain ways. He told us some things were good for us, some bad. He told us some things were right in His eyes, some wrong. He told us He created this place we live in a period of days. No matter how confusing any of that may seem (and make no mistake - child-like faith is one of my favorite things, but growing in wisdom is a stretch to that faith, and stretching is almost always a good thing to do with aging muscles), it holds that there was a Truth. And the God that foretold, sent, and raised this Truth is the one telling the story in a way that might make you scratch your head, puzzle out how things piece together, but before you know it, you have been thinking, praying to, and meditating upon Him and how He did it, how it all might paradoxically mesh.
Simplicity out of complexity. Youthfulness out of age. Truth out of confusion. Beauty out of chaos.
So far, I have to tell you, the 40s just rock.
Intersecting Faith and Life: No matter how old you are, make a list of what's behind you and what you think or hope lies ahead. Admit the concepts with which you struggle, and the bedrock that does not move, and find the place they meet for you. And move forward from there.