Welcome to the middle, mid-lifers. And by middle, I mean that caught-in-the-middle, stuck-in-the-middle-with-you kind of middle. It can be a time full of upheaval, raging hormones, empty nests, job change, caregiving and exhaustion. But, it can also be middle like center – a time of knowing ourselves and others so that we are powerful in the best kind of way. We have lived through real trials and have learned the lessons that only experience can teach. So, to recap, we are in a whirlwind of change and challenge and we have some badass wisdom in our bag. Do we need a support group or do we need to lead one? And where does God fit into this picture? Perhaps we need to do both and God fits right into the middle.
At some point in midlife, you will face something that knocks you so far back on your heels, it will make you dizzy. If you are like most folks raised in western culture, you will try to soldier through this time by putting on a brave face and swallowing your unrest. Why is reaching out for help so hard? American society clearly delivers the message that strength and independence are the most prized character traits. The entertainment industry is overrun with movies about superheroes and action heroes who save the day, often with a combination of brute force and brilliance. Social media feeds are filled with smiling pictures of our friends calling out their latest success or achievement milestone. It is easy to be swept into a tornado of self-doubt, holding up our lives to a worldly standard that feels unattainable. These are messages of the world; they are not of God’s design. Throughout the Bible, we are told not to rely on ourselves alone but to put our trust in God. The church, through loving community, should be an agent of God’s love in the world – the real world of cancer and depression and fear of eviction. Faith communities offer real tools that can help us get through some truly dark times. Perhaps a support group of living, breathing people experiencing the same thing as you are would help you navigate this new terrain. Or maybe a private talk with the pastor would be more suited to your needs. There are also books, devotions and podcasts that can offer support. Realizing that you are not alone in needing help is the first step – reaching out to find it should come a little easier after that one.
In these everyday acts of bravery, facing your fears and coming through struggles, you become someone that can help others. Jesus tells his disciples, and us, “Whoever wants to be first must be last and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35) We all have different life and spiritual gifts to share. How can you use the wisdom gained through trials to help others walking the same rocky paths right now? You might be a writer and could offer a regular blog on Advent’s new website. If you have the gift of teaching, you could offer a class on something you are passionate about; I would be happy to help guide you with materials and assistance. If you are a great listener, you could seek information on how to start a support group. This pursuit may take some training or partnering with a trained professional, depending on the area of interest. Each one of us has a unique set of gifts and life experiences to offer; giving these gifts in community is a blessing we are charged to share.
Reaching one hand out seeking rescue and the other hand out to help our neighbor puts us right in the middle – and right in the center of the life God gave us.