The time of midlife offers many opportunities for discernment. As we gain life experience, we grow in many ways and see ourselves and our lives differently. Our discernments can therefore be richer and deeper. In midlife, people may experience or receive these gifts:
- Spiritual and human maturing
- New awareness of the preciousness and fragility of their lives
- Awakening or deepening sense of what is important and what we want to accomplish in life
As we grow in maturity and reflect on our life experience, we grow in wisdom. We know ourselves better: both our strengths and our weaknesses, and we understand human nature better. If we are growing spiritually, our capacity to love in a fuller and freer way is probably growing. As we pass the “midpoint” of our lives, we recognize the giftedness and limits of our lives: we see more clearly that we only have a certain number of years in which to change the world for the better. We might feel a greater urgency to make difference in the world, or we may wonder if we are truly fulfilling God’s mission for us. Often, we decide that we will no longer let fear or others’ opinions prevent us from saying or doing what we think is right. We may lose patience with the noise and nonsense that surround the nonessentials of life, such as: office politics, unhealthy rivalries (whether at work or in our personal lives), or doing things just for the sake of preserving reputation.
Midlife is sometimes talked about as if it’s a crisis, and it certainly can become one. As our perspective shifts in midlife, we see our lives and our responsibilities in a new light. Sometimes we can become depressed about the physical limitations that our age has or will bring, or the reality that our time here on earth no longer seems unlimited. (Recognizing the shortness of our lives can feel like a punch in the gut, even though we’ve always known this theoretically.) In midlife, our change in our point of view means we evaluate our lives differently, because we have more experience, and hopefully, more wisdom. We might look at our lives more from a spiritual perspective, rather than from the perspective of accomplishment, status, or early dreams. We may feel we have wasted our lives on nonessentials and become discouraged at what we haven’t accomplished, or that we haven’t fully lived up to our ideals.
The three big gifts of midlife mentioned above make this a rich time for discerning God’s invitations and for living God’s will more deeply and fully in our lives. These gifts—maturity, new awareness of the giftedness of our lives, and a deepening sense of what is truly important to us—shape our perspective so that we see in a new way. Less constrained by fears or conventions, we open ourselves more fully to God’s will.
What do you see as the gifts of midlife that can lead us into a deeper following of God’s will?