Welcome to our series on the beautiful midlife season! We will explore all the blessings, challenges, and changes that accompany this time in a woman's life, from the physical, to the relational, to the spiritual, and more. Come with your questions in the comments!
It was my 46th birthday. There wasn’t much festivity, because it was a Wednesday. And midweek birthdays can be hard to pull off in a busy family of eight, with school and sports and youth group activities. I knew we would celebrate over the upcoming weekend, and I really was fine with that.
So why did I feel so sad as I crawled into bed?
Feeling melancholic about my birthday threw me for a loop. I have always enjoyed my birthday, and age has never bothered me. I entered my 30s and 40s without any desire to be younger than I was. And in fact, I tended to look forward to the year ahead—older (and hopefully wiser)—with contentment.
What made turning 46 so different? Why did I “feel” my age in a way that actually made me feel old? And what brought about a sadness about life that I had not felt before?
Over the next few months, my husband and I had several conversations about the shifts we were experiencing in our own lives, in our marriage, and in our family. Both of us felt a little shaky and uncertain, as if our lives suddenly felt foreign to us. We noticed that what used to work didn’t work anymore. Our normal rhythms and routines no longer felt smooth. Rather, we were hitting bumps in the road and falling into some pretty wide potholes.
Moreover, our communication was becoming irregular and unintentional. And we were missing out on opportunities to grow into this new season of life together.
While we didn’t have many answers, we surrendered to the fact that we had entered midlife.
And we wondered: now what?
More to Midlife Than a Crisis
Doing a simple internet search, the most common terminology surrounding the mid-life season is "crisis."
Isn’t that awful? And discouraging? Why does this season of life (and not others) have to be referred to as a crisis? And is the crisis inevitable?
Perhaps midlife is described as a crisis because it feels like it comes out of nowhere. One day, life is going along as it has been for the last 20 years. And the next day, life feels very different.
The shift, however, happens over time. But the busyness of life distracts us from the changes that are occurring.
I personally notice midlife changes in three areas of my life:
As my children graduate from high school and move into adulthood, my school-aged children are increasingly busy with school, friends, and part-time jobs. All of them still need me, but that need is different and certainly more infrequent. And while I am still called to be available, I also have more time on my hands. Time that used to be filled up so easily now sits ready for something… But what?
I look across the table at my husband, and I can’t remember the last time we had a deep conversation about something other than kids, schedules, and finances. Who is this good and godly man? I want to reacquaint myself with him, but I don’t know how. It feels like there is too much to say and not enough time to say it all.
And then there are the goals that are still unmet. The book I have not written. The places I have not visited. Will they remain dreams? Is it time to dream anew? What is God’s call for me? And is anything preventing me from fulfilling it?
From Crisis to Gift
Facing opportunities to rediscover myself, get reacquainted with my husband, and redefine my motherhood feels both exciting and overwhelming.
But where do I begin? How is this going to work?
Recently, I was reminded that dryness in prayer is simply God’s way of preparing the soul for a deeper experience of Him. Like a farmer tills the soil before He plants a new crop, the Lord clears the landscape of our hearts before beginning a new work in us. Similarly, God uses dryness in prayer to heighten our awareness of Him or rekindle our desire for Him. On that newly-toiled plot of land, we may not see a lot of development, but the hidden work of the farmer is vital to the growth of the new crop.
Similarly, midlife may feel like a desert or a newly-cleared plot of land, but that dryness or emptiness is simply God’s way of preparing us for something more. He is inviting us to pay attention to who He is and what He is doing. He is showing us that He is the answer to our questions, and our needs and desires will be met in Him.
This perspective allows us to perceive midlife not as a crisis, but as a gift.
We read in Ecclesiastes 3:1:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” It goes onto say that God “has made everything beautiful in its time.
This confirms that midlife is not a crisis. Rather, it is a time and matter under Heaven. It is an intentional season to enter into “for such a time as this” (see Esther 4:14). And it becomes the catalyst for God to till our hearts for something new.
Do You Not Perceive It?
How do we make the shift from crisis to gift? How do we recognize the beauty of this season?
Here are four ways I am learning to embrace midlife as a gift and recognize the blessings along the way.
1. Pray With Scripture
In addition to the Scriptures cited above, here are a few verses to take to prayer during this season of life.
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. // Isaiah 35:1-2
Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. // Isaiah 43:18-19
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. // Philippians 1:6
2. Pay Attention
While we are meant to be present to our midlife moment, it is also a time to observe where we’ve been and contemplate the direction we are going.
- Be grateful for the past.
- Reconcile wounds that I have inflicted or received.
- Invite the Lord to write straight with crooked lines.
- Be still and know that He is God (see Psalm 46:10).
- Hope in the Lord, even if I can’t see what He’s doing yet.
Renew Your Vocation
While life is no longer what it used to be, God invites us to reclaim our identity in Him and discover new ways to live that out.
- Be mindful of new ways to love and support adult children.
- Regarding time, focus on quality over quantity.
- Ask my husband to go for a walk.
- Write him a love note.
- Register for a silent retreat.
- Settle into quieter, more contemplative prayer.
Let’s Journey Together
I am encouraged to not shy away from talking about midlife. It can be weird and raw, because it is such a new season for me. I have nothing figured out, but I am learning as I go. And we can walk together, side by side, with the Lord as our guide, leading us through the gift that is the midlife season.