"For is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth, even a kind of second adolescence? It is true that society in general does not help one accept this interpretation of the second half of life. And therefore this period of expanding is often tragically misunderstood. many people never climb above the plateau of forty-to-fifty. The signs that presage growth, so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing, are interpreted falsely as signs of decay. In youth one does not as often misinterpret the signs; one accepts them, quite rightly, as growing pains. One takes them seriously, listens to them, follows where they lead. One is afraid. Naturally. Who is not afraid of pure space - that breath-taking empty space of an open door? But despite fear, one goes through to the room beyond.
But in middle age, because of the false assumption that it is a period of decline, one interprets these life-signs, paradoxically, as signs of approaching death. Instead of facing them, one runs away; one escapes - into depressions, nervous breakdowns, drink, love affairs, or frantic, thoughtless, fruitless overwork. Anything, rather than face them. Anything, rather than stand still and learn from them. One tries to cure the signs of growth, to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation."
"Gifts from the Sea", Anne Morrow Lindbergh
i know what you're thinking - why is janet posting something about middle age? because friends, i'm hitting it. i'm thinking that "middle-age", for me at least, is less about a specific number than it is about life stage. i'm in the in-between. most of you aren't - most of you still have children too young for school, or are pregnant, or you're too young to even contemplate the age "middle". but i'm here, on the cusp, on the edge of a wide chasm. and it is scary, the pure space, the open door...but also a little breath-taking if i'm honest.
my youngest is now in kindergarten, which means that half of my school days are wide open spaces. when i think about them i see large fields stretching from me, inviting me to explore. but with the fields come the questions - what am i to do? who am i to be in this next season of my life?
it's a struggle, because it is hard to leave behind old rhythms, past areas of ministry, comfortable excuses. it's hard to say no to anything when i seem to have all this time, all this freedom to share. i do feel discontent and restless, and compelled to frantic action. for the last two weeks i wake up tuesday morning, the day after our sabbath, feeling like i'm going to drown. like the amount of work facing me in the day is too much to comprehend. and then, by 4pm, i'm bored. it's like i've completely forgotten what i'm capable of, how much time certain tasks take me, the difficulty level of work that i've been doing for years. what is going on?!
i stumbled upon this chapter today and pieces began falling into place. this is a new season, a new stage of awkward growth. it's even accompanied by the same inexplicable weight gain i experienced in pre-adolescence! thankfully i'm not needing another round of dental appliances, and i have a much stronger fashion sense.
awkwardness is never fun however - i'm all gangley arms and legs, shy in my own skin, looking around me, waiting for affirmation, for direction, for calling. tentatively sticking my big toe through the open door, trusting that the same God who is in this room is waiting in the next. that's one great thing about the middle - all the faith-inspiring experience of the beginning to remember.
so, welcome angel of annunciation - whisper to me the secrets of the future, the scandal of the present, the promise of the past. tell me my life's purposes, and i will walk with you
through the middle,
to the end.