Sunday, May 16, 2010

'Mid-Life Crisis' OR 'When will God call me to do His work?!'

I was invited to a James Taylor + Carole King concert by friends at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A..  Boy, was it a trip . . . back in time!  I used to listen to their music when I was a teenager and here I was, over 30 years later, remembering and, in some sense, re-experiencing what I felt, thought and experienced 'back in the day'.

James Taylor and Carole King sounded great - gave a great performance  - to the packed 'bowl'.  I noticed that both were showing their age.  Boomers were everywhere but it was only after the lights came up that I was able to look around.  I was shocked to see all the gray heads.  Do I look like that?!  I don't spend a lot of time in front of the mirror but knew . . . of course I did!

Where had the time gone and what did I have to show for myself - what did I accomplish - in the years since I was an idealistic teenager?!  I was a bit upset to realize all of this and realilzed I was having a 'mid-life crisis' moment!

Well, in evaluating my life, I realized I I had had a successful academic career and, professionally, had done well since graduating.  I was married to a wonderful (and lovely) woman and had two great boys (still pretty young - since I was a bit of a late bloomer!)  I owned my home, had money in the bank and had great relationships with family, friends, co-workers - everyone.  I was healthy, physically fit and still full of vim and vigor.  Also, I had known and walked with the Lord for decades and knew a bit about scripture, the spiritual life, etc.  I was minister of our local fraternity of Secular Franciscans, was well-respected and people seemed to both appreciate and admire me.

However, considering my youthful aspirations - it was apparent to me that I had fallen far short.  At an early age Jesus had touched and transformed my life - flooding my dark soul with light, freeing me from depression, anxiety and many other emotional (and social) problems.  He had opened up life and the world to me and I felt extremely indebted to Him.  After all I had nothing - no life and no future (I was suicidal!) and He had given me life, 'and that abundantly!'  I wanted to serve Him and bring His message of love to the world.

I've tried but . . . accomplished so little.  I can't help but feel discouraged at times.  I'm getting older, my vitality and abilities seem to be declining, so when and how will I be able to fully serve, really please, the Lord?!

The Lord, however, reminded me of Moses who, from his birth seemed destined for great things in life.  Born, only to be 'thrown on the waters' of the Nile to die, God took him out of the river and placed him in the heart of the Egyptian royal family.  He was raised as the son of the daughter of Pharaoh and given all of the advantages of royalty: a great education, influential friends, experience in a postion of power and authority, wealth, etc.  Why would God place him there if it wasn't to accomplish some great work?!  What greater work needed to be done than the deliverance of the people of God from slavery and who was in a better position to do it . . . than Moses?!

Moses waited for decades for God to speak - give the word to act.  Finally, at the age of 40, he decided to take matters into his own hands.  He began to 'visit' his people in their slavery, intervene in their affairs.  His heart was in the right place - he loved the people - and wanted to serve and be a blessing to them.  He ended up killing an Egyptian who was unjustly attacking one of the Israelite workers.  The fact got back to Pharaoh and Moses ran for his life.  It was clear that though he was raised as Egyptian royalty he had chosen to ally himself with the people of God - the people enslaved to the Egyptians - making himself an enemy of Pharaoh and of the Egyptian state.

His hopes and dreams of serving God and serving God's people were dashed.  He went from the Royal courts of Egypt - the place of power in the Egyptian empire - to  . . . shepherding sheep in the wilderness!  What could he do in the wilderness!?  The Israelites - the people he felt called to help - now were many miles away.  The Hebrew Bible tells us he shepherded sheep for 40 years and I'm sure, his dream of delivering the people of God was put on the proverbial shelf and, eventually, forgotten. 

However, during those 40 years, Moses sought the face of God.  Not so much to get answers, accomplish some great 'work', but just to be with Him - to know, wonder at and celebrate His goodness.  The wilderness presented few distractions and the hours were long.  Who was there to talk to but God who, of course, is everywhere.  God was ever near and ever willing, to spend time with him, of course.  Moses had been faithful and devout before (during his time in Egypt) but His faith deepened in the wilderness.  His relationship with God become more intimate, more powerful - more all consuming.  Later, we see the result of this extended time living like a hermit in the wilderness.  The Hebrew Bible tells us God addressed Moses as 'my friend' - something God had never said about anyone before (until Jesus of course!)! A friend is someone you open your heart and mind to - who you talk to about those things that are most important to you.  Moses spoke to God and, deep in Moses' heart, God spoke to him.

Then one day, out of the blue, God appeared to Moses in the bush and gave him the ministry he had looked for all of his life!  Now, of course, Moses was a transformed man - prepared for the work God had in mind (had always had in mind).  Now (at 80!) Moses was ready to begin his life's work.  He would do that work for the next 40 years!

God teaches me that, before thinking about serving others in ministry, I must make Him the center of my life and serving him in prayer and praise should be my only (spiritual) objective.  Though Moses was sincere, fervent and very willing to serve, it is apparent that, in God's eyes,  he was not ready.  The 40 years in the wilderness were the foundation for his ministry since during them Moses truly allowed God to make Moses' relationship with Him the foundation of his life.  Moses' position in Egyptian society, no matter how powerful and influential that might have been, was not what  qualified him for the work.  It was his intimate relationship with God.

So . . . I guess I'm not too old!  I need to get out in 'the wilderness' (at least spiritually!) and seek the face of the living God.  Once my heart is firmly grounded in the Truth that He is, in the power of His goodness and the glory of His love then . . . He will be able to use me to do some good before I pass from this life.

P.S.  When Moses died at the age of 120 we are told that he had the strength and energy of a young man.  God willing, if we are as faithful, we'll do just as well and be called home at the height of our energy.  Won't that be a blast!


  1. I'm in that same proverbial boat!Except mine includes bands like Black Flag and The Cro-Mags. Remember what Mother Theresa said: "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one".

    So it doesn't matter that you and I are "late bloomers" In the true joy of life, what counts is that we have seen that light, and have the chance to make a difference in the here and now. Who knows, perhaps if your children have children of their own, they'll pass on down some value they got from you, and that value will lead that child to Saint hood! Stranger things have happened Brother!

  2. brother Steve, I am one of the baby baby boomers (born toward the end of the boomers!) so listened to some Blag Flag myself. Thank you for your encouragement - and sense of humor! Good advice too. When confronted with one of the poor, that person in need should is the world - the only one I need worry about. That is the way Jesus interacted with every single person He met during His earthly ministry - the way He is with you and I. My little ones?! I am determined to show them the way - with my life and my words. Mother Theresa! You couldn't have chosen a better person (except Jesus, of course) who expressed the love of God - the love that takes in the world and yet responds to each and every hurt/pain/sorrow with serious concern - so wonderfully! God bless you brother. I believe great things - the great things of God - lay ahead. Now just getting into step - becoming a 'saint' myself (God's goal for each believer)! That's the hard part. God bless you brother and thank you for not only visiting but encouraging this poor 'old' brother!

  3. Although I am still a very young man myself, I remember trying to explain something along these lines to some of my students when I was in Brooklyn. I told them to imagine that there were two women, both 100 years old. The first woman had lived a faithful, Catholic life for her whole life and had always gone to Church and prayed and everything. The second woman had been a sinner most of her life and at the age of 80, she decided to join the Church and be faithful to God. I then told them to imagine that both of those women then died and I asked them if they thought that the second woman should go to heaven or hell. They insisted that she go to heaven, thankfully, because that was the point I was trying to make. It does not necessarily matter how long we are faithful, but that we tried. It does not matter if we do everything or only a few things, so long as we have tried as best as we can. I think Saint Peter is a good model of that.

    I guess what I'm saying is the same model could be used here. Remember that it is the effort toward the building up of the Kingdom that matters more than the quantity of work, at least in my opinion. Good work done well is better than a lot of work done poorly.


  4. Peace to you Matt! I agree with you - quality is all important. If we give our all to God, give Him quality (and a bit of quantity as well!)then we will be fully equipped by Him for every and any good work He has in mind to do through us. Peter's first sermon (in Acts, just after the descent of the Holy Spirit) included this wonderful line, 'Jesus went about everywhere doing good to all men'. I think the story of Moses illustrates your point about 'quality' but also another - the more fully we know and love God the more fully we can share Who He is and how much He loves everyone. If we are filled with God then every word, action, thought and feeling is infused with Him, His life and power and . . . His love. Thanks for not only visiting the blog but sharing. You are very kind for trying to encourage me in my journey of faith. God bless you in your journey and in your efforts to serve Him and spread His goodness in the world. Also, judging by the Tau cross you are my brother in Francis as well! Peace and all Good to you!