All too often, men in their 40s go through what our culture calls a "mid-life" crisis. These crises can be outwardly minor (i.e., less significant), involving merely the purchase of sports cars, youthful clothing, or extravagant vacations. Others can be major (and quite devastating), as when men leave their spouses for younger women or start abusing alcohol and/or drugs. But whatever the severity, mid-life crises are typically life-altering and accompanied by some sort of permanent change in perspective or practical philosophy of life.
Recently, I struggled with my own mid-life crisis. Although mine was of the outwardly minor sort, it nonetheless harbored a great deal of internal turmoil and change. The crisis began a couple of years ago, when I saw some friends of mine being severely hurt by a group of rather evil-hearted people. In an attempt to protect these friends and stand up for what is right, I threw myself into the fray and, as a result, was also wounded. At first the wounds didn't seem so bad, but after about a year, I found them to be quite bloody and gruesome. Dealing with these wounds took time, a great deal of introspection, a lot of reliance upon God, and the undying support of my wife, Beth, but in the end, they were healed. Sure, some scar tissue remains, but today the wounds are faint, forgiveness has been given to those who hurt my friends and me, and I once again find myself in a good place. But it is a different place...a place of altered perspective.
You see, I used to see myself as a rather successful person. I didn't necessarily tout my supposed success--I tried to remain humble--but inside I considered myself to be on the right track in life...destined to do great things. However, my world was rocked by the wounds I received, which caused me to rethink who and what I am. The deep wounds and subsequent healing process opened my eyes to a hidden or suppressed truth. And that truth is...I am a failure. Let me explain.
Many people think I'm a good father, but I know the reality. I have made so many mistakes with my children that I often wonder if they'll turn out ok. I've failed as a father. Many applaud me for serving in the military, but my service has been less than I had hoped. I have many regrets. I've failed as a Soldier. Many are impressed that I hold academic degrees from four different colleges/universities, but I never earned a Ph.D., and I didn't go to the finest schools. I went where the tuition was cheapest and where I didn't have to move my family. In the eyes of the academic community, I am a failed or marginal "scholar." Many think it's cool that I build guitars, but I've truthfully not built that many guitars, and mine aren't being sought after by any noteworthy musicians. I'm a failed luthier. Many are surprised when I tell them that I've been a pilot and flight instructor since I was 18 years old, but I don't fly any longer, and, honestly, I was never all that skilled when I did fly. I'm a failed and washed-up pilot. Many envy my professional experiences (e.g., police work, military, geological engineering, pastoral ministry, flight instructing, etc.), but the reality is that I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Consequently, I spent a large portion of my early professional life bouncing from job to job and not settling down. While my friends were becoming experts in their fields, I was wandering aimlessly. I am a failed professional. And the list could go on and on.
So, the result of my mid-life crisis is simple, yet profound: I've been forced to move from a paradigm of success to one of failure. I no longer see myself as someone who has the world by the tail; rather, I see myself as having taken up the tail end.
Now, before anyone starts feeling sorry for me, or before you send me texts, emails, and replies that attempt to cheer me up, let me say that I'm happy about this change! Because I finally realize that my best efforts have resulted in "filthy rags," I have become so much more inclined to rely on God and his mercies. I am also much more appreciative of Jesus' first-will-be-last-and-last-will-be-first admonition. I think the Lord put me through my period of crisis in order to highlight my inadequacies, faults, and failures so that I might draw closer to him. Before, I handled life on my own in a manner that I thought would bring success; now I'm inclined to let the Lord handle my life in a manner that I know will bring ultimate and enduring success. You might say, therefore, that I didn't have a mid-life crisis as much as I had a mid-life catharsis.
Has anything like this happened to you? Have you had your mid-life catharsis yet? If not, pray for it to happen! You'll thank God when it does!