If you are forty-something I need to talk to you. Over the last week I have had the unusual privilege to speak very candidly with several of my childhood peers about the season of life that faces us when we are living in our forties. There are some unique challenges that it takes being forty-something before you have to confront. The forties can force all of us to rethink, reevaluate or renew the commitments we have made to ourselves and most importantly to others.
One of the clearest themes and most pertinent points in my conversations and considerations with the forty-somethings is this whole idea of excitement versus commitment. What I am hearing and sometimes feeling is the strain to return to excitement when your forties only call for commitments. When you get in your forties you realize that you don’t have to like it, you just have to live it. Fun is optional and focus is essential.
Commitment is the mark of maturity. Tenure is the gold standard. Longevity is now how we measure and mark our progress. Listen to how we talk. We discuss our success in terms of how long we have been married or been on the same job. We legitimize our efforts by pointing to what we have collected during our forty-plus years. When you are forty-something you better have something! This is the pressure of the culture. The upper-middle class is filled with forty-somethings who are buying what they can’t afford, with credit cards they shouldn’t have to impress people they don’t know.
What has happened to our optimism ? When we were in our twenties we had future-focused optimism. Things could and would always get better. No matter the situation, we believed that our God-given youth and its strength was enough to fix it. That idea soon leaves us when we are facing and forging through our forties. We are reasonably half way through our lifetimes. We don’t have the youth and strength that we once had. We now have to fight pessimism and past experiences just to “keep hope alive”. If we are not careful our forties can become the cemetery for our hopes, dreams and visions.
We start off with a life built on great expectations and then wind up living a life built on little more than gnawing obligations. We begin with an imagination for an exciting marriage and we wind up in a marriage between roommates or cell mates. We start off with dreams for Spirit-filled, college-educated children and wind up happy if they go to church every now and then and finish their GED. We start off expecting to make lots of money but end up just struggling with the overloading responsibility of debt and bills.
Is “happy” still an opportunity available to the forties? Is it possible to live excited and enthusiastic again in the middle of a life that has taught us so many disappointments? Can we forge ahead in our forties with a new faith?
The answer is , “YES!” The forties can be the most exciting season of your life if you are willing to have a “mid-life crisis”. A mid-life crisis is not about buying sports cars, chasing younger companions or committing drastic changes. A mid-life crisis should be an awakening that God has bigger plans waiting for you beyond your forties. Your age is not a destination it is a marker on the highway of your life. You have a lot more life to live.
Abraham was 75 years old when he began to serve God. Moses was 80 years old when he lead Israel out of Egypt. Caleb was 85 years ago when he took possession of his promised land. David was 70 years old when he started the building of the Temple. John the Apostle was in his 90’s when he wrote the Book of Revelation. They all survived through and thrived beyond their forties and wound up doing great things for God. You can too!