Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Midlife Wisdom

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she (wisdom) is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed (Proverbs 3:13-18).

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when a middle-aged guy buys a sports car, wears a gold chain, and dyes his hair?  Yep — a midlife crisis!  Some stories are comical, some are sad, and some are tragic.

It seems to me that instead of having a midlife crisis, which btw is not limited to men, we ought to tap into our midlife wisdom at this stage of life.

1. By mid-life you should know that success has its limits.  I’ve worked hard all my life.  I’ve worked smart too.  And I have experienced fulfillment from the things I have done.

But I have also learned that success has its limits.  For instance, my whole identity cannot be defined by my ministry, vocation, job, or accomplishments.  Why?  Because it will result in an identity crisis (or crash-and-burn) after my ministry is over.  If my whole sense of self-worth is defined by what I do, then what happens to me when I can do these things no longer?  No amount of success will help me find my center if I don’t know who I am as a person.

You are not your job, and neither should you be.  Additionally, if you are in your 40s or 50s you also know your body is not what it used to be – it has its limits too – which means you cannot maintain the same pace (in pursuit of success) that you could in your 30s.  Enjoy your success.   But keep things in perspective.

2. By mid-life you should reevaluate your values and priorities.  We’re here for only a short time.  Then we pass away.  By mid-life, the end is in view.  Now is the time to stop taking our opinions so seriously (after all, everyone has them), and enjoy the things we didn’t have time for when we were building our careers and accumulating material possessions.  Take time to look enjoy the blue sky, orange sunsets, the laughter of friends, and the fruit of your labor.  Seek to bloom in the garden of your circumstances.  Love your spouse, guide your children, and embrace your grandchildren.  This is your calling, and is the substance of life.

In younger years we derive our identity from college degrees, careers, promotions, vocational awards, peer recognition, and material possessions. But at midlife our old compasses no longer work.  The magnetic field alters.  These things lose their importance (and should) as we embrace a new season of life.  We have to learn that midlife has meaning and significance.  This is something we should embrace instead of dreading.  We should adjust our thinking to view midlife as an opportunity for personal growth and new experiences, rather than a crisis.  It’s a time for us to be mature and to be known for our wisdom.  Frivolity and youthful recklessness should be a thing of the past.  It’s time to let go of old wounds, to enjoy our families, and bring heaven down into our daily life.  It’s also a time to reconnect with a stranger in your life: your shadow. 

3.  By mid-life you should let go of roles you’ve outgrown.  We are so programmed to be the person we used to be that we fail to embrace who we are now.  We put on airs, adopt someone else’s style, and become an actor (or actress) pretending to be the person we would like to be.  And it takes its toll.  We minimize ourselves.  We lose authenticity.  We become pretenders – not even honest with ourselves.   

Many mid-lifer’s are still trying to emulate the style of younger people, and falling short – and it shows.  Your body, your face, and your appearance are not what they used to be. 

Myself, I accept the lines in my face and thinning hair.  I accept the changes in my body and the aches in my joints.  And I have asked my wife to speak up if I ever attempt one of those ridiculous comb-overs that midlife men are known for.  Yes, I still have a certain amount of vanity, (I’m not ready to throw in the towel yet and look like a slob), so I’ll keep exercising and eating right.   But I don’t want to look pathetic or desperate either by trying to look like something I no longer am.  Instead, I want to embrace this stage of my life and be known for the wisdom and accumulated years of experience I have gained – something I would like to pass along to younger people.

Instead of regretting that you have entered your 40s or 50s, embrace it.  You’ll be respected for your self-confidence.  Instead of wearing clothing that no longer flatters you, wear something that is age-appropriate.  You’ll look mature, confident, and like a person of substance – which will command respect from others (instead of their whispers and insults behind your back).  This is the season of life to take the emphasis off of your packaging and redirect it towards inner beauty, character, and wisdom.  Embrace who you are, and embrace this new season of life.  It could be your best.

The glory of young men is their strength, but the beauty of older men is their gray hair (wisdom)  Proverbs 20:29

Well there you have it – just a few thoughts to chew on.  Reflect and recalibrate your life where it’s needed. It’s never too late.  Take advantage of your midlife wisdom and avoid a crisis!

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