How can we come to terms with our failuresand our successes?

What Happened To Peter when he tried to walk on the water is something that can happen to every one of us—and indeed does, at some point of ministry. It is part of what breaks down the unmitigated pride of the youthful minister and changes, as if by transubstantiation, enthusiasm into patience for the kingdom of God. And, as part of the developmental cycle of the minister’s life, it is most likely to happen during the difficult transition period from early to later middle age.

“I am convinced,” says Peter Chew in his book, The Inner World of the Middle-Aged Man, “that man’s search at midlife is ultimately a spiritual one.” And Richard Olson, to whom I am indebted for that quotation, adds this word from Carl Jung, the great psychoanalyst: “Among all my patients in the second half of life—that is to say, over thirty-five—there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.”

It is general, not particular; it happens to all, not only to ministers. And it is natural, with ministers as with others, for the breakdown or fall or reassessment to occur in terms of the spiritual pilgrimage.

What we are doing, you see, after the period of intense activity and achievement that characterizes early middle life, is stopping to reexamine the course we are on, and deciding whether the trip has been worth it. For some, this means coming to terms with the failure to achieve.

I have a friend who is about due for that. He is a Southern Baptist with all the unbridled ambition that sometimes characterizes young ministers in that convention. From age 15 to 40, he has been possessed by a dream of ministerial greatness. He manages to continue ...

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