Over the last few years, one theme that resonates increasingly within my heart has been to finish well, moving from success to significance with the remaining time I have left on this earth. Perhaps you may say that I am experiencing a season of life called midlife crisis. Climbing the ladder of success can be exhausting and often there is a feeling of emptiness when you reach the top and it may dawn on you that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall!
The rich experience of reaching the pinnacle of one’s career can come crashing down with the realities of globalisation leading to being outsourced, retrenched and being unemployed for an extended period. This falling down yet not falling apart can be a sobering experience. It also creates opportunities to experience the grace of God in the form of a supportive spouse, family and Christian community including PSPC. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to lead a portfolio of ministries including the Men’s Ministry in church during this transition.
The renewed vision for our Men’s Ministry is to present every man mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28). This vision is equally applicable to my sisters in Christ. What does being mature in Christ have to do with falling upward? Both involve similar process steps. Let me explain.
According to Swiss psychiatrist and philosopher, Carl Jung, our lives can be divided into two halves. The first half of our life is focused on identity, security and achievements. Discovering who we are, our gifts and achieving success are the focus of the first half of life. The second half is about becoming fully yourself and making a difference to our world in a new and powerful way.
Richard Rohr wrote that the task of the first half of life is to create a proper container for one’s life and to answer essential questions like “what makes me significant?”, “how can I support myself?” and “who will go with me?” The task of the second half of life is to find the actual contents that this container was meant to hold and deliver. For the first half, we are living our lives according to a script that is written for us and in the second half, we begin to write the script and own it. Some people spend their entire lives in their first half of life; they are unable or unwilling to transit to the second half of life.
The transition from the first half to the second half of life often involves suffering and pain. This life-changing experience can involve a falling down, a loss of control that pushes us out of our comfort zone. It can take the form of a situation at work – missing a promotion, retrenchment, unemployment or it could take different forms like a major illness, death of a loved one or a failed relationship. Getting out of this painful transition involves a Gethsemane experience of yielding/surrendering to God’s will like Jesus did – “Not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Still others can get stuck in their sufferings, paralyzed and unable to move out into the second half of life.
The second half of life is to allow God to take control of our lives so that we can become His vessels of grace to the people He brings into our lives. This is what our Lord Jesus told the Apostle Paul after he had prayed thrice to remove the thorn in his side: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” and “for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). This is the essence of maturing in Christ. The second half of life is not about getting old, dealing with health issues and dying. Our falling down can be experienced as falling upward into the grace of God, making a difference to the people God has brought into our lives.
I am still a novice when it comes to living this second half of life. It is a new learning experience, growing in the grace of our Lord Jesus. Whether my ramblings resonate with you or puzzle you, I will be most encouraged to listen to your own experiences in your spiritual journey of two halves with Christ.
A few books that I have read which I hope will be helpful to fellow travellers on this spiritual journey: “Halftime” by Bob Buford, “Lost in the Middle: Midlife and the Grace of God” by Paul D. Tripp, “Finishing Well” by David WF Wong and “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr where I took the title for my sharing this Sunday.
May our God grant you His grace to mature in Christ.