November 15, 2014.
We all know that point in someone’s life where they go out an buy the sports car they always wanted, a drastic move to another state that they have always been drawn too or even a simple reorganization of life plans, goals and recreation. Though we would never mention it to them in person (unless you know them well), we can recognize the mid-life crisis. When it comes to our lives, we may not be keenly aware (outwardly at least), but deep down, I would imagine (though I have not reached that point yet) we probably know just as well as the people on the outside looking in. I don’t know if the mid-life crisis is particularly looked upon as a bad thing, per-say, rather we have more of a “bless their heart” kind of attitude towards it, if that makes sense (I can’t think of the right word to describe it). The point I’m trying to make is that, whereas we don’t necessarily look at the mid-life crisis as a bad think, we don’t typically view it as a good thing either.
But is there such a thing as a Christian mid-life crisis? If so, would it be good or bad? Forgive me if I am stretching the analogy a bit, but I believe that we are in dire need of a Christian mid-life crisis. I was listening to a devo the other night and a point was mad in passing that I thought was a brilliant observation. The speaker was talking about the story of Moses, specifically when Moses saw the burning bush. As a background to the story, he told of Moses’ rather unusual childhood, being hidden from the Egyptians just to have a daughter of Pharaoh find him in a basket and raise him as her own. When he grew into early adulthood, he saw the oppression of his people and even killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew. When he found out it was known what he did and that Pharaoh sought to kill him, he fled the land. Moses then seems to have made a pretty comfortable life in Midian after saving the daughters of the prince of Midian. He married Zipporah and begins his mid-life, starting to build a family.
The speaker compared this to middle aged Christianity. The point where you have settled down, have a job and a family and things are kind of just pressing along pretty smoothy, with a few bumps here and there. You probably aren’t as passionate about your spirituality as you once were, though this is not because you meant for this to happen. Your spirituality has just waned over the years due to the distractions of life. Perhaps you used to go on mission trips, but now you can’t because of your job and family. Maybe you were heavily involved in a campus ministry or a ministry at church, but now you seem to barely have time to even eat with those closest to you. Maybe one day you will have more time to read, pray and spread the gospel, but right now you are just trying to get though the day. Yet you have said this for a few years by this point, and to be honest, the way your life is going has become pretty comfortable. This seems to be where Moses was at when he encountered the burning bush.
God gave Moses a mid-life crisis, so to speak.
“Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them.Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
God came to Moses to give him a purpose. He had a task for Moses to carry out, and it was not a small endeavor. He had gotten Moses’ attention, and now it was time for Moses to rise to his calling, coming out of his comfortable life where everything seemed to be going well into a highly unpredictable (at least for Moses) journey that seemed like too much to bear. It was time for Moses to have a mid-life crisis, but not one that would end in the purchase of a sports car, but one that would rejuvenate his spiritual journey.
But Moses wasn’t too keen on beginning this journey however. He comes up with all the excuses of why the plan wouldn’t work or why someone other than him would do a much better job. Sound familiar? How many times in your life have you passed up on an opportunity because you didn’t feel like you could do it or you didn’t feel like it would make a difference? Would you think the same way if God spoke directly to you and told you what to do? We think that we would be different in this situation, but I am not convinced that we actually would do anything different. Moses didn’t. He tried to turn the Lord down. He tried to get out of his calling. But God was not going to take ‘no’ for an answer (As a side note, the story of Jonah begins in much the same way). Finally, Moses accepts the call and would go on to be one of the most prominent characters in Jewish history, leaving a legacy that lasts to this day. All because he had a mid-life crisis that was sparked by the Almighty.
Today I believe that the call is evident for such a crisis. As I start into this point in my life where I am truly becoming an independent adult (though I still have a few years to middle age), it scares me. Not because I am scared of growing up, but because I am scared of growing lukewarm. The thing is, I know that this apathy is never intentional. No one (or not many people at least) says, “Ok, I’m out of college now and starting a family. I think I’ll start weaning myself off of this whole passionate Christianity stuff. I’ll just go to church on Sundays and Wednesdays and that will be my God time.” I really don’t think anyone consciously says that. But it happens. So many changes bring about new challenges and less time. The overwhelming cares of the world seem to push out the solace of Christ, and people who enter their middle age (as a general rule, not everyone) lose some passion. They don’t give up on God completely, nor in anyway do they stop believing that Jesus is the Christ. They don’t become more “sinful” or promote bad things. They just lose passion. Zeal dies away. Soon, Sunday morning and Wednesday evenings are the only times that God is really thought about, and any outreach is out of the question due to lack of time.
This scares me, because I know it is a very real possibility for myself if I am not careful. I am coming off of a spiritual high where I lived at a campus ministry and was surrounded by Christians, exchanging thoughts and ideas and working to minister to the people on campus who were not Christians. I come from a work that was highly active and people who were very zealous for the Lord. Now I am separated from those people by many miles and am in a new town where I simply don’t know very many people, nor do I have the ability to walk down the hall to get into a deep theological discussion that would last for hours. I spend most of my time at UAMS doing the whole graduate school thing, and then I come home to an empty apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I like my school, the program and even Little rock. I have found a good church where there indeed seems to be a lot of activity and minds who are focused on serving God. Yet it’s not the same, out of simple practicality.
I feel as though I could easily slip into the whole middle aged Christianity without even knowing, almost out of necessity. I don’t want this to happen. What I would love to see is for middle aged Christians (take that as the beginning of a family and up) to have a Christian mid-life crisis. A revival of the true spirit of Christianity. A reorganization of priorities where spreading the gospel is at the top of the list. I want this to happen because I need the example of these Christians. I need you to show me that it is possible in a world that makes it seem like it is not. I need you to show me that there is hope. I need you to show me you are indeed able to dedicate your time to Christ and spiritual thought even though you have a steady job and a family of which to take care. And it has to be you. I can’t look to my peers and see hope, because they have not entered the life stage you are in yet. I cannot look to my elders, because they are in an all together different point in their life. I need to see you, because I am going to be you in a few years.
To be clear, I wouldn’t write this if I did not think it was completely possible to have a revival amongst Christians in this life stage. I really do see hope, and I do see Christians in this stage that are living a great example to younger Christians. This is in no way a bash on middle age Christians. There are Christians of all ages that can easily fall into the trap of becoming lukewarm. I am just trying to highlight this trap so that we all may avoid it, or climb out if we have been ensnared. We need to have a mid-life crisis, and one that sparks a movement that will ever glorify God, just as Moses did.
So, had God gotten your attention?
Suggested Daily Reading: Exodus 2-4, 12.
Let’s start a movement.