I’m a soon-to-be-44-year-old-professional male, so I would appear to be a prime candidate for a midlife crisis. I have a stable (wonderful is actually more accurate) marriage and loving kids. I have a meaningful career that I have really enjoyed and feel makes a difference. So, am I really a candidate?
By all recent accounts, yes, but not in the way the phrase is normally used.
A friend and I talked a couple of weeks ago about our version of having a midlife crisis. He was having the same basic experience I was. After focusing virtually all of our talent and effort into work, we were both feeling a very strong tug to focus on the people in our lives and the ministry opportunities around us.
I don’t think I’m in any danger of falling for some hot babe (at least, no one other than Maggie). Nor am I likely to blow all my money on an exotic car (no matter how cool they may be – although I have to admit my bike might play a role in the traditional definition). But I am in the throes of becoming more passionate about my family and my God. It’s challenging and exciting. (Don’t get me wrong; I’ve always been deeply in love with Maggie and the kids. I’m just trying to be more focused about our time.)
Men seem to dive into poor choices at a “midlife crisis” because they look around and see life slipping by. The believe the things they thought were important are no longer all that important. They wonder what it was all for. They decide to focus on themselves because they think they’ve “earned it.”
That’s not exactly what’s happening to my friend and me, but there are at least a few parallels. We haven’t decided anything is less important, so we’re not scaling back careers or wrecking our marriages. We seem to actually be making better choices. We’re finding ways to be more efficient and effective at work in order to buy a little extra time. We believe our work is very meaningful, but we recognize the need for balance, and we want to do something important outside the office. We’re also trying to take better care of our health, so we can be here longer and enjoy the time more. In general, though, we’re trying to focus less on ourselves and more on those around us.
This sort of midlife crisis isn’t about giving anything up. It’s not about walking away from the commitments of marriage or career. It’s about responding to the call to be a better steward of what we have. It’s about being more engaged with God on a daily basis. It’s about dying to self. It’s about making a difference in the lives of others while still carrying on the lives with which we’ve been blessed.
I previously was able to be much more engaged with my family and ministry opportunities despite having a huge work drive. As time went on, family and ministry time was supplanted by down time since I treasured “personal time.” I’d like to say it was that all my time went into work. While I did – and still do – put a lot of time into work, when I do a real evaluation, I can’t say it was really work that took time away from family and ministry. It was at least as much self. That’s why I feel pretty confident I can re-engage without shorting other commitments, particularly as I have learned many good ways to be more efficient with work.
Am I up for the challenge? I think so. I hope so. When I consider the potential legacies I could some day leave, the ones that make the most sense are ones that focus on eternity.