Ask anyone who's hit midlife, and they'll tell you: this stage is no joke for us.
The emotional, spiritual, physical, and relational shifts that occur at midlife can lead to disconnection from old social networks and a profound sense of loneliness, which brings with it serious health risks. At this point, many also feel drained by the increasingly common occurrence of death, disease, divorce, and the changes that redefine old friendships.
And yet, rather than engage these important but uncomfortable issues that come with aging, our culture—including, at times, the church—would rather laugh it off. We see midlife as a caricature: the man with a bad comb over buying a red convertible or a thick-waisted woman drenched with sweat after her internal thermostat cranks itself up to the "temporary inferno" setting. We make the middle-aged into a punchline:
- Midlife crisis is that moment you realize your children and your clothes are about the same age. (Insert rimshot here.)
- The good news about midlife is that the glass is still half-full. The bad news is that it won't be long before your teeth are floating in it.
- Don't think of them as hot flashes. Think of it as your inner child playing with matches.
Sure, the jokes are funny in a late-night TV monologue kind of way, but for Christians, midlife needs to be more than merely a punchline.
Church should be a place of meaningful connection with God and others at every stage of our lives, but nearly half of more than 450 people who participated in an informal and completely unscientific survey I hosted on my blog last year told me that their local church had in some painful ways exacerbated the challenges they faced at midlife. As a result, ...1
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