Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Midlife Appraisal

Mid-Life Appraisal
Picture Credit
At the start of 2014, roaming through my favourite bookshop in all the world, Hatchards in Piccadilly Street, London, I came across the book Celtic Daily Prayer (buy it here), which has turned out to be one of the best daily devotional books I have come across. It contains a great deal more than just two years worth of daily devotional material. One of its sections is entitled Mid-Life Appraisal and, in retrospect, I realise it was placed before me by our Lord to gently ease me toward one of the biggest decisions of Chris and my life together, namely to move from South Africa to the United Kingdom ... see my recent From the Pastor's Desk for more on that.

Mid-Life Appraisal is written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, and is from her book Gift from the Sea (buy it here):

"Is it not possible that middle age can be looked upon as a period of second flowering, second growth, even a kind of second adolescence?  Is it true that society in general does not help one accept this interpretation of the second half of life.  And therefore this period of expanding is often tragically misunderstood.  Many people never climb above the plateau of forty-to-fifty.  The signs that presage growth are so similar, it seems to me, to those in early adolescence: discontent, restlessness, doubt, despair, longing.  But now these are interpreted falsely as signs of decay.  In youth one does not as often misinterpret the signs: one accepts them, quite rightly, as growing pains.  One takes them seriously, listens to them, follows where they lead.  One is afraid.  Naturally.  Who is not afraid of pure space – that breathtaking empty space of an open door?  But, despite fear, one goes through to the room beyond. 

But in middle age, because of the false assumption that it is a period of decline, one interprets these life-signs, paradoxically, as signs of approaching death.  Instead of facing them, one runs away.  Anything, rather than face them.  Anything rather than stand still and learn from them.  One tries to cure the signs of growth: to exorcise them, as if they were devils, when really they might be angels of annunciation.

Angels of annunciation of what?  Of a new stage in living when, having shed many of the physical struggles, the worldly ambitions, the material encumbrances of active life, one might be free to fulfill the neglected side of one’s self.  One might be free for growth of mind, heart and talent; free at last for spiritual growth.

So beautiful is the still hour of the sea’s withdrawal, as beautiful as the sea’s return when encroaching waves pound up the beach, pressing to reach those dark rumpled chains of seaweed which mark the last high tide.

We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships.  We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb.  We are afraid it will never return.  We insist on permanence, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.  The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping even.  Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now."

Celtic Daily Prayer also includes this prayer for "The Middle Years of Opportunity"

Lord, help me now to unclutter my life,
to organise myself in the direction of simplicity.
Lord, teach me to listen to my heart;
teach me to welcome change, instead of fearing it.
Lord, I give You these stirrings inside me,
I give You my discontent,
I give You my restlessness,
I give You my doubt,
I give You my despair,
I give You all the longings I hold inside.
Help me to listen to these signs of change, of growth;
to listen seriously and follow where they lead
through the breathtaking empty space of an open door.

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