Thursday, February 3, 2011

Finding Meaning in the Middle Ages

I'm not so much talking about the years between 400 and 1500 AD...when I say "finding meaning in the middle ages", I'm talking about your middle ages. Your years between 45 and 60. I'm now convinced these years are more pivotal and dangerous, in your life and mine, than the teenage years...because big mistakes made here are rarely recovered from. Attitudes formed here, rarely change.

We all hear how the enemy is after young people.

I am here, on your screen today, to tell you confidently: the enemy is after middle age, maybe more than youth.

Gone, by and large, by 45 years, is the elasticity of the teenager. You tend to not snap back from the big disappointments, much less the big mistakes. If you stumble and fall at 50, you tend to stay stubbornly down, because either you will not change your mind, or you no longer care. Do you not think the enemy of your soul knows this?

Do you not think he will use it to his every advantage against you?

I'm 44, so I don't have time to mess around getting this message out to you, so I am just going to say it, instead of segue:

If you are feeling an urgent need for "a change", that is exactly the time you must be still.

Perfectly. Still.

Don't you change one thing until the peace of God returns to you. You dwell in the land right where you are, and cultivate continuity. Faithfulness. Consistency. A holy "Sameness". You tough it out and work it out and clean it out until you are happy with your same life again. You do that until you are completely content with your life as God has given it.

That isn't an unhealthy way to cope with middle age feelings of frustration or meaninglessness, despite what shrinks or therapists are saying. Do not "take the plunge" and "do something new". When your life is being gnawed at by a sense of meaninglessness, when you are bored, don't run out and buy a farm or adopt a kid or start a flock of guineas or buy a few Nubian goats or build a mansion or get a new job or try to have a baby or move to a new state or leave your church or start a ministry. I would not even add on to my house, if I were you.

Because it is a trap, nine times out of ten. It is usually, at least, a waste of time. What was begun out of discontent does not suddenly become the source of contentment. Our hearts are restless till they find their rest in God - nothing else.

Get still, confront the meaninglessness, and wait for that death angel to pass over you. You are covered by the blood, and it will pass over. I repeat: Do. Not. React.

You don't create real, God-kind of change. The God-kind of change creates you. It finds you. It discovers you. It changes you. Think of every Bible example you know. Real God-change found Sarah. It found Abraham. It found Moses. It found David. It found Peter on the fishing boat. It found a wee little man, that tax collector up in a tree. It found Paul on his horse, when he was still Saul.

Self perpetuated, self activated "change" leads to closed Edens, dead brothers, Ishmaels, silly towers - monuments to the flesh, the wrong king, the wrong decision, forsaken friends, betrayal, and liars dropping dead in God's house.

You are struggling with finding meaning or passion or purpose in your life not because you need a change, but rather because you have not infused your ordinary day with meaning.

Meaning is not something we "get out of life". Meaning is something we put into it. Like it or not, you are the one responsible to number your days.

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Ps. 90:12

The Hebrew word for "number" means to "name". It means to "assign meaning to what is". Dominion is still your original purpose, and naming what lies before you is still your original job - just like the first man Adam. You can't take dominion where you are not, you can only take dominion from where you are.

Wisdom is in the sight of him who has understanding, But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth. Pr. 17:24

If you are wise, all the meaning you need in life is right in front of you. But the eyes of a fool are always on what isn't right in front of him - searching for meaning from the outside in. A fool is always in a position of needing to do something different for the sake of doing something different - as a means of self-medicating against the meaninglessness that the preacher in Ecclesiastes always spoke of...

"Vanity (Or meaninglessness) of vanities," says the Preacher; "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." Eccl.

Friend, if you are in the grip of those middle ages of disappointment and a feeling that all is absurd, of depression or restlessness, I wish I could just sit with you and help you be still. If you are a woman, I wish I could hug you until the feelings pass. I wish I could "shush" you, dry your tears, and make you laugh and hope again.

I remember wishing, not so very long ago, that someone could do that for me. And the very ones I hoped could help, couldn't. And the very ones I thought would be there, left. And the very ones I trusted, were the ones least to be trusted, the ones that hurt me the most. And it was a wonderful, bountiful dealing for my soul. And it led me to learn to worship, leaning on my staff of truth, favoring that hip put out of joint by that wrestling match...such a long, long night of the soul.

I can't do much, but I can promise you, if you be still, you will know that He is God. And He will be exalted, yes, even in your life. Your soul is restless till it finds its rest in God - nothing else.

Return to your rest, O my soul, For the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. Ps. 116:7