One of the most important thing you can do in your teens, twenties, and potentially in your thirties is what Richard Rohr calls building your tower. Your tower is the symbol of your own personal importance. We may find it in personal achievements, building the “perfect” life, or by belonging to the right groups (Your denomination, people who agree with your personal doctrines). Only two things can cause you to jump off the tower that you have built yourself; love and suffering. These are the truly great teachers in life.
If the goal is to jump off the tower of our own false identity, then there are many blessings that happen in your thirties, forties, and fifties to help get you there. Most people have a parent that dies during this time. If you have children, they lose their innocence somewhere along the way and become hormonal demon seeds. Men go through mid-life crises; women go through menopause. Adults realized they worked jobs they hate, to buy things they don’t need, to impress people they don’t even like. Kids go off to school, or leave the house, and married couples have to rekindle the energy of their friendship and sexuality. The second highest divorce rate is for empty nesters. The mid-life offers many aging struggles. For some they’re trying to reach back into a youth that no longer seems present to them. Theologian Jurgen Moltmann offers this wisdom to people who are struggling with the “loss” of their youth, he says, “Adults who have become slaves of their over-organized time like to dream about those wonderful childhood years, which were so carefree and without set purpose. But as a corrective to an upbringing which presses forward with the aim of rapid progress, the dream is a valuable utopia. What we need, whether we are children, adolescents, adults, or the old, is a balance between experience of the present and expectations of the future, between the fulfillment of the present and the beginning of a new day.”
Rohr says that when we are able to answer the “who am I?” questions, we are able to answer the “what am I supposed to do?” questions. He says we spend the first half of life building our container (or tower), and the goal of the second half is then to fill it. The pain of these middle-aged years, and the ability to recognize the pain of our youth allows us to then answer the “who am I?” questions. When we are pushed off the tower and land (either in love or pain), we are able to find out that God is the ground of our being. We are able to say, “Okay, this life is not about me” and hopefully be able to mutter, “I am about the life around me.” We are able to find ourselves in God, because we are made in his image, and we no longer need to keep climbing that tower. When we begin to work on the ground, we become profoundly useful. We are able to offer wisdom, hope, peace, and love to those along the way. This is the hope of Paul’s words, “Do not grieve without hope.” God is working in the pain, in love, in our new beginning, to give life and purpose to not only our own lives, but to those around us.