The Journey Through Life Pt.4

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.

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6 thoughts on “The Journey Through Life Pt.4

  1. Pat Pope says:

    Well, suffering has certainly gotten me off my tower in the last 2 years. In that amount of time, I’ve worked for a she-devil of a boss, while laboring as an elder with a couple of people who did not respect me either because I was a woman, black, educated, thought outside of the box or all of the above. So, essentially, I’d leave work beat down and disrespected, only to encounter the same thing at church. I put in long hours as an elder, selflessly because I love the Church. But with so much disrespect and backstabbing, I finally decided to leave the church. About four months before I made that final decision, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and all the emotional family baggage rose to the surface. (So, by now I have a different and better boss, but things are no better at church. Get the picture of what I was carrying?) My father is okay, but I’m dealing with two aging parents and making that shift away from being so emotionally involved and trying to be everything to my mother. It’s not healthy and it’s an inconvenient time for me to find this independence at a time when my mother needs me most, but it’s not good for me or for her, and I’ve found as I step away and not do so much for her, she does for herself. I sometimes feel bad because I know how it must feel to be 80 and in need of others to help out, but I also know the emotional baggage I’ve carried for 47 years. If our family dynamic were different, I could easily step in and do things. But that’s not my life.

    I’m at a place where I’m accepting who and what I am and am at peace. I’m speaking the truth and no longer swallowing it as I’ve done for so long. I also recognize that my journey’s not complete yet, but at least I recognize that I’m on a journey and am determined not to cave in to the expectations of others if they do not line up with my beliefs, desires, etc. I’ve taken a lot and now I say– no more!

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Wow Pat, you have been through a lot in the past few years. It seems like you have encountered death in a real way. Whether it be spiritual, sociological, and even near encounters with physical. How have you come out of this maintaining such a gracious spirit?

      • Pat Pope says:

        Believe me, Mike, it hasn’t been easy and I haven’t been gracious through it all. There’s been anger and great hurt that is slowly dissipating, but I still have my moments. I think what has gotten me through is my faith in God. When there’s no one else to turn to, I can turn to God Who knows the depth of the pain, hurt, humiliation, etc. He’s faithful when I haven’t always been so. He doesn’t rush me through processes; He patiently waits while I work through all of this and that’s what I need. Those who with good intentions say little platitudes sometimes don’t know how they are often heaping hurt on already existing wounds. We selfishly just want people to feel better and a lot of times, we don’t like feeling bad so we just want people to move on when what is needed is for the person to genuinely feel what they’re feeling and experiencing. I don’t want to swallow the hurt anymore without processing it and God is the One who graciously allows me to do just that. He is definitely my Rock and as I say goodbye to a lot of things in my life (and some people too), He remains my all in all and is truly sufficient.

  2. I can only speak for me but my “midlife crisis” has become a midlife nuclear meltdown.

    You come to the realization that nothing is as it seems or as they taught you growing up.

    Country/Politically – You realize that you don’t think like a majority of the people. That the story they told you about living in the greatest country on earth is really propaganda. Other countries have things that are way better than America and Americans are arrogant and ignorant and will not admit that and will certainly not try to adopt similar programs for its people. We arrogantly try to force our ways on other countries still believing that WE are the greatest and they need what we have. Reality – Our Country has serious deep rooted problems that are not addressed.

    Religion – You come to realize that most of religion is made up and that you have built you life on things that are not true. Deep in your heart you still seek God, come to realize that you will NEVER KNOW Him because God can’t be figured out or put in a box and explained. You have to get comfortable with the “not knowing” and yet still seek Him daily. To love Him and love neighbor and realize that a spirit connection is what is important. Most of religion however is doctrine and theology and believing the right things. I think you can believe wrong things and still be loved and held by God because believing things is not what it is all about. It is about living the life within you in God. Reality – Religion is man’s trying to define something that cannot be defined. We do not KNOW for sure anything about God. But we believe. Religion is non-reality. God is reality…or at least I still believe that.

    Relationships that you thought we stable come to an end. Leaving you in your 50s and alone. Dating in your 50s is ridiculous.

    Career – after 20 years with a company you are laid off. Getting a good job in your middle 50s in this economy is almost impossible.

    Economics – After the economic crisis you come to the realization that our economic system is all smoke and mirrors. You realize that affording retirement is based on a system of investments that is no safer than gambling it all in Las Vegas. Retirement investments are a crap shoot.

    Physically – you look really bad, (I have gained all kinds of weight going from 155 at 27 to over 300). Your body starts its decline – joints, arthritis, bone spurs, difficulty walking, teeth cracking and having to be pulled. It doesn’t matter how ridiculous or unrealistic it is ….you have times where you overwhelmingly want to be in your mid 20s again – to look like that, feel like that, date people that age. And yes, I am one of those men who for the last 7 years has been dating 20 somethings. You do that for awhile and you realize that they are young and good looking and have the great body that you don’t have anymore… but that is not going to make you that way and ….they never get any of your jokes cause they are too young 🙂 . So you quit dating all together.

    So, in midlife you reach a point where everything you have built you life on you come to see was not reality. You wasted your 20s, and 30s in a career that you thought was the right thing to do only to look back and see that your dedication to it robbed you of life. You became a functionary of the system or in a modern term “wage slave”. You have no love in your life which is probably the one thing that makes this life tolerable. You get the overwhelming feeling that you have wasted your life…and you only got the one shot. You wake up and see this and now there is no way to correct it and you are alone with an uncertain economic future. The future is not looking too good. You have nothing left to look forward to.

    Now the above is all true, and I do have my moments where I get down about all that, but I really go through most of my days happy. Waking up and having coffee and meditating, seeing the wind blow through the trees, seeing autumn leaves falling, a good italian dinner and bottle of wine with friends and good conversation and laughter…spiritually I have been opened up to see that the minute by minute normal living is God living in me and through me and that is a very good thing.

    • Mike Friesen says:

      Wow Mark, you have so much to say. How have you told others about this new found reality? I think Nouwen said it perfectly when he said, “We don’t think our way into a new kind of living, but we live our way into a new kind of thinking.”

  3. I have hinted at what I am learning but people don’t get it. I think that they think I am loosing it. They still believe the lies and propaganda.

    Years ago I had what some call an inner locution but I don’t know if it was or just some random thought but I was having a drink by the pool and checking out the scenery and out of the blue a voice went through my head and said, “Mark, every man has to find his own way home”. It kind of stunned me cause I was really having a good time by the pool. Not meditating or anything. I have always held on to that. Me describing what is happening to me in life and my learning and reaction to it in no way helps another. They have to find their own way home. The most we can do is be with each other on the journey and support each other as each of us finds our own way home. In some way I don’t understand yet I am told that while being unique we are also one. I guess it does all boil down to love God and love each other. We don’t need to make it any more complicated.

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