When we flipped our new calendars to January 1, 2011, the first wave of baby boomers began turning 65. According to the Pew Research Center, every single day for the next nineteen years, ten thousand more will join them.
As psychologist Vivian Diller recently noted, midlife is being redefined by the boomers who are now marking their passage through this life stage. Twentieth century notions of aging and retirement are being challenged by a combination of generational preference and financial necessity. The fastest growing demographic enrolling in seminaries are people over 50.
Even with the boomer propensity toward reinvention, there is no way to re-brand (or circumvent) the spiritual crisis that happens at midlife as we move from the ambitions that forge the first half of our lives to our search for meaning in the second half. As author Dale Hanson Bourke noted at Her.meneutics last summer, "Few decisions made in our second stage of life represent a natural progression toward what has been built in the first half of life. It's as if we have to completely turn our backs on our first-half identities in order to invest fully in our second callings."
This is not an abstract question for me as a woman born at the tail end of the boom. My age-peers are asking a lot of hard questions these days, best captured in a conversation I had with a friend not long ago. Kim invited me to follow her into her youngest son's now-vacant bedroom as she searched an item I'd loaned her in a forgotten corner of the closet. As we stood in the empty space, she said wistfully, "I was prepared for the nest to empty. I am busy with work and church responsibilities. But I'm stuck. I feel I've stalled out spiritually. To tell you the truth, I think I was ...1
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