Keeping The Christ In Midlife Crisis

Keeping The Christ In Midlife Crisis

Beginning around the fall of 2011, I went through something of a personal crisis centering mostly around my church ministry and where I felt it was (or, more accurately) wasn’t going. I was serving in a good parish with good people but often found myself doing work that, at times, felt empty- work that I didn’t truly feel called to do. Was it a “midlife crisis?” Setting aside the question of what constitutes midlife, let’s just say that it was a crisis of that variety. It was a crisis that many adults go through when they are ten or fifteen years into a career, ten or fifteen years into married life (or single life) and suddenly wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning, asking, “How did I get here?”
The English word “crisis” comes from the Greek word krisis- a word that we encounter a number of times in the New Testament. In English versions of the New Testament this Greek word krisis is usually translated as “judgement.” For example, when Jesus says in John’s Gospel, “And this is the judgement, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light,” (John 3:19) the word here is krisis. With this in mind, it may be helpful to see a time of crisis as a time of judgement in one’s life; that is, a time when one needs to make hard decisions or tough calls.
Looking back on the last four years, what I’ve learned from my experience is this: Somewhere in the midst of the chaos and messiness of my hard choices was an opportunity to choose Christ. Let me explain. On the surface of things, it seemed as if the primary dilemma of my professional crisis was fairly straightforward: Do I keep serving the Lord as a paid, full time clergy or do I find some other kind of employment and serve him in a different way? As I prayerfully dug deeper, however, I realized that the real dilemma centered around the issues of trust and faith. Did I trust Jesus? That was the real question. In the end, I simply chose to believe that he would take care of me. I’m aware of how unbelievably trite all of this sounds but, after some consideration, that’s the only way I can phrase it. I chose to trust that, with time, he would lead me out of a place of emptiness and dissatisfaction and on to an entirely different path. As soon as I chose to trust, the crisis was well on its way to being resolved. (By the way: the path that I was led to ultimately turned out to be the one Jasmine and I are walking now- serving as “community priests” in inner-city Saint John).
I told you something of my crisis. What about yours? Perhaps You’ve got this job that you’ve been working away at for the last twenty years and you’re really good at it. The pay is great and the benefits are ideal. But there’s a problem: You hate it. Every morning, you wake up feeling nauseous at the thought of going into the office. In short, your life (at least your professional life) is in crisis. Or, you could just as likely be going through more of a personal crisis at home- a crisis in your marriage or a crisis in your life as a mother or as a father. Maybe you’re even experiencing a crisis in your church life. Do I stay in this worshipping community where I was baptized and confirmed or do I go? Do I continue to serve as head of the missions committee- the same position I’ve filled since 1993- or do I move on to a new way of volunteering? What you need to do (and I know from experience that this isn’t always easy) is discern the question: Where is Christ in this crisis? What would he have me do?
Here’s where things get even trickier: The things that Christ would have us do are often the hard things. Like admitting to a loved one that we’ve wronged them; like extending grace to someone who has wronged us; like forgoing the opportunity to exact some petty- albeit immensely satisfying- revenge; like serving in ways that are costly and sacrificial; like dying to our pride and our bank account and our reputation and ourselves so that we can live in freedom with Him; like learning how to trust him. And, once we’ve prayerfully discerned where the Lord might stand in the messiness of our crisis (again, not always an easy task) we need to ask ourselves, “Do I stand with him?”
Everyone faces times of crisis. In fact, a crisis need not be limited to middle age. (Ever heard of the quarter-life crisis?) That being said, our calling, if we happen to be followers of Jesus, is to keep the Christ in crisis.

Stuff to ponder and possibly share:

Have you been through the kind of crisis I just wrote about? How did you get through it?

Are you going through a crisis like this now? How can Jas and I pray for you?

  1. Do you think Jasmine and I are middle aged 🙂