mid-life: escaping resentment loading

I just made up that term, resentment loading. Let me capitalize it to make it official-sounding: Resentment Loading.

It’s one of the traps of mid-life. Like cynicism is a trap.

By resentment loading I mean … just that. Loading up my wagon with resentments. Towards people, groups, God. Whatever.

We’re more teenagery than maybe we want to realize, when we “grow up” and realize that the people we admired actually have shortcomings and even might hurt us in some way.

Around 40, we get pretty confident that we have a measure of life experience that allows us to judge.

Or resentment might be disappointments, seeing choices that we regret somehow, Or not regretting the choices we made, but we might regret that that particular choice then meant that another option I also wanted was closed off, perhaps forever.

It’s one of mid-life traps I’ve noticed.

I’ve been tempted to resent things about my parents, my husband, God, my kids … basically anything, because … why? Often, there’s no good reason, or no reason for which they could not also resent me. It’s just a crazy road to go down. So I stay away from that path as much as I can, thank you, God.

Anyway.

What’s helped me is two things:

  1. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.

2. Humbling myself under the mighty hand of God and telling him that no matter what, I will truly trust and know that He is good towards me, in control of it all, and He’s working for my best interests, even though it really hurts.

Mid-life: Beware of Resentment Loading.

mid-life: some things never change

I thought that seeking for “the will of God” was basically over, once I decided where to go to college, what to major it, going to the mission field, marrying…..

Yikes.

I also thought I would reach some point of maturity that I would feel … maybe irrevocably in love with God and obedient to him. Like, I would become so mature, I would not even need to choose those things anymore.

Yikes again.

Midlife is realizing that it wasn’t all just for the late-teen, early 20s. It’s all life long. Determining what to do, what God wants me to do… renewing my affectionate love for God over and over, choosing obedience over and over.

Mid-life: realizing that some “youth” stuff is not youth but the nature of a long-term relationship with God.

mid-life, the reward of the Word of God

I’m reading slowly through Arthur Pink’s book, The Attributes of God, and here is a paragraph from chapter 21 “The Guidance of God.” (I’ve been spending time in this chapter these days because I’m seeking guidance on some mid-life stuff.)

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Josh. 1:8). God will be no man’s debtor. In keeping His commands there is “great reward” (Ps. 19:11). Part of that reward is deliverance from being deceived by the false appearances of things, from forming erroneous estimates, from pursuing a foolish policy. Part of that reward is acquiring wisdom so that we choose what is good, act prudently, and follow those paths which lead to righteousness, peace, and joy. He who treasures in his heart the divine precepts and diligently seeks to walk by their rule will escape those evils which destroy his fellows.

Getting reflective here:

About 30 years of almost-daily being with God through His Word. And I learn to appreciate those rewards of steering my life by His ways.

For example, I started doing birth work in 2010, until about 2013 or so. Then I mostly stopped (I took a few exception clients.)

You know, stopping was one of the hardest things I think I’ve ever done, because I love birth work, and there are times I regret and sigh over it, but now, at 43, I’m glad I did it. With getting perspective, I guess I derailed my career, but it’s not a hard career to return to, though I regretted and sighed because I thought it was forever gone. I’m glad I was available to and with my kids so much during those years. What I’m glad about is that I didn’t sell my soul or my family to birth work. (I personally wasn’t able to make it mix at that point, though there are others who certainly can.)

“Part of that reward is deliverance from being deceived by the false appearances of things, from forming erroneous estimates, from pursuing a foolish policy. Part of that reward is acquiring wisdom so that we choose what is good, act prudently, and follow those paths which lead to righteousness, peace, and joy. “

I’m actually, as part of my mid-life motions, getting ready to return to birth work, but I think differently about it now, and I’m not so sacrificial towards it as I used to be.

So, even though it’s the long middle, I have definite rewards– a well-invested marriage, nice kids, long-term friends, meaningful ministries ….

mid-life, from changing myself to accepting myself

I’ve noticed this shift in my thinking and life considerations lately.

That I don’t think so much in terms of who I’m becoming or who I want to be. Projecting myself into the future. Now I think more in terms of who I am.

I’m not saying that I’m closed to changing or learning, that happens still. But more that I have to think more now in terms of who I am.

I’ve kind of stopped striving in some areas. Like striving to be a super house cleaner. Or striving to cook constantly. Or striving to love those things.

It’s more OK with me now to accept my level. It’s a pretty good level, I guess, and works for our varied lives.

Perhaps it’s even more peaceful, to stop striving for some kind of perfection in every area of responsibility. And rather accept that I don’t need perfection, I rather need to determine what is important and focus on that.

This is another shift I’ve noticed about mid-life.

mid-life, a loss of milestones

Earlier in life, milestones were everywhere. Each grade. Elementary school. Junior high. High school. Camps. Summers. School years. College. Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior. Graduation. Graduate school.

First job. Engagement. Marriage. Children.

And life now is kind of a blur of my children’s milestones.

Forty was a milestone.

Stopping breastfeeding (after 12 straight years) was a milestone.

But somehow, those are not really the bright milestones of progress and change that used to occur with regularity.

In fact, “milestones” are now … I need reading classes….my shoulders have chronic pain….I need to lose weight again….health issues I don’t want to talk about …

Are they anti-milestones? Ha ha.

It’s mid-Life.

middle age, learning silence

Another factor in the non-blogging-ness of this phase of life is this: Keeping secrets, keeping confidence, and keeping silence.

More of my life involves growing kids who are sensitive to what I say and share, plus the privacy of my marriage, and plus other people who’ve shared private information. So life is more full with less share-able information.

Also, I’m personally nor currently processing major shifts in perspective, like what happened with childrearing a few years back. So there is less discovery. Or less share-able discovery?

I could share more about fundraising, because that’s an area I’ve learned a lot more about. In fact, maybe I will do that now.

😉

middle-age, neither the beginning nor end is in sight

I’ve been thinking off and on about why I don’t blog so much any more. I think it’s because I’m done processing my births, my childrearing philosophy/principles, and honestly, I feel like a broken record talking about my midlife feelings, so I mostly keep that to myself.

I’m in the long middle of my journey.

Donald Miller, in his book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, explains it like this:

I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids and change the way people buy office supplies. But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger.

None of my trees are getting smaller or bigger. I’m just in the middle of the journey, going with no beginning or end in sight.

And I’m too tired to keep beginning things. And my life is filled already with the responsibilities of “my story,” as Miller puts it. It’s honestly not exciting from this perspective.

And I am learning to be OK with that. To be OK with these years of repetition, paperwork, unnaturally-fitting jobs that come with the territory of my story.

Miller talks about how a lot of people bail out at this juncture. It’s crossed my mind for .02 seconds, but bailing out has absolutely no appeal to me.

I’m OK with it all, actually. It’s hard when I think that to the end of my days my life will be this way, but … my mind knows that my life will change again. Kids will grow, ministries will change.

It’s hard, not having that excitement of youth, the anticipation, the ideals, the dreams. Thankfully, God has kept me out of cynicism, which is one of the pitfalls of the long middle.

But it’s a rich time of life, too, when I open myself to accepting the fullness of life’s experiences. Giving myself out. Valuing longevity. Working smarter not harder (because energy has to be used more carefully).

One challenge is keeping my relationship with God warm and alive during this time. Keeping it personal, not routine. Because maturity changes how I read the Bible, too, and how I experience God. I’m still exploring that.

Anyway, I wish I blogged more. I am just in the long middle, not feeling like I’m learning much that’s new, doing repetitive, necessary tasks, so I feel like there’s not much to say.

🙂

Pt. 2, about controversial things

So, I just wrote about controversial things, and a friend commented:

Please write more especially on the relation to the overlap of courage, fear, wisdom, and dying to self with that “non-person” phenomenon.

I will explain my own progression in these areas and include insights from my husband that helped me along the way. (It helps me organize by thoughts by numbering ideas, but it doesn’t necessarily mean a distinct progression.)

  1. Logical arguments mean almost nothing…. This lesson took years. I used to participate in a forum that discussed ideas, issues, etc. And the major life lesson I took away from that experience is that truth or rightness of itself doesn’t win people over. Logic has it’s limits. We are not at all solely logical beings. A winsome expression of the truth, a pleasant personality, general respect for others, self-effacement– these are the factors that tend more to win the day. Hopefully they are combined with truth.
  2. “Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
    Bind them around your neck,
    Write them on the tablet of your heart.
    So you will find favor and good repute
    In the sight of God and man.”
  3. Truth somehow becomes untruth if it’s used as a club or means to beat people down– I think because the non-verbal message is untrue to God’s nature.
  4. I went through a number of years when I was in an emotionally hostile environment due to some church issues. My husband, a pastor, became the main pastor of our church in a time of personal and public crisis for others in church leadership.
  5. During this time of hostile environment, I was personally having my most blessed insights about “opinion” matters.” However, sharing this was even openly attacked, so I became basically silent. For the sake of greater issues/hurts in our church and because certain key hearts were closed, I mostly remained silent. For years. My outlet was my former blog.
  6. However, I realized that God didn’t always approve of silence. Silence is comfortable to a point. But God didn’t make us to be creatures of silence, and there were potentially harmful opinions being loudly propagated.
  7. I wasn’t silent all the time. There were moments I could speak appropriately and I used them on rare occasions.
  8. So, I realized that my “opinion” (personal leadings/lessons/insights from God) were to bless others in my influence. That doesn’t mean others will do what I do, but as a person in leadership, I am a unique individual whom God leads in specific ways, and the cumulative effect of that will have a general influence.
  9. One lesson from Vitaliy’s evangelism: Look for open hearts. And be a person around whom hearts can open. Or a person with a skill/knack to opening hearts.
  10. I had to really clarify my opinion to become a more universal truth. I had to not become stuck on certain practices or outward showings of a truth. I had to state the truth. Example: the truth is that you should love your child. –That is a very deep and searching truth. I can’t “preach” the methods of loving because anyone can do a wide variety of actions and have love or indifference. But I can share wisdom insights, some specifics, etc.
  11. Also from Vitaliy: My opinions or ways of doing things have a particular result in my own life because of who I am, my personality, my character, my resources and situation. But just prescribing those opinions/actions to others results in a wide variety of outcomes — because those people are very different from me in a multitude of ways. They will not get the result I get by just copying me.
  12. However, I focused on my example and living out the truth: “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Others should be able to look at my life and be able to copy my faith, though the external actions may and will differ.
  13. Pray. It really is the Holy Spirit who changes an opinion, assuming all sides (truths, opinions, info, etc) are known. All I can “do” is not to make my opinion or belief (or the truth itself) malodorous to others by my obnoxiousness, snobbery, self-righteousness, pride, truth-beating, etc. Prayer also changes me and re-aligns me to Jesus as the salvation of mankind, not the “salvific” (surely! right? ) effect of my opinions.
  14. And when the Spirit grants open hearts (and after years, He amazingly did this!) there will be the fruit in others’ lives that God wants. And that’s more important than just winning some type of following.
  15. P.S. I try to re-examine my opinions periodically and ask God if He wants me to change in any of these areas.
  16. There’s something I may be forgetting, but that’s it for now 😉
  17. About the loud people who easily spout their opinions: don’t assume they have an overwhelming influence because they’re loud or because they easily talk about their opinions/beliefs, and because they silence others. God knows how to limit influences. Pray He will do so, and that He will be able to do so in positive ways.
  18. If you have a major opinion/belief conflict with the/a/another leader, tread carefully. Sometimes, for the sake of greater issues of unity, there are reasons God wants us to be OK with not making a big deal out of something. It’s very situational. Like, I would probably never join the church whose pastor actively promotes something I strongly disagree with. I could convince myself, for example, that oh surely people need to hear another opinion, so I should join that church and fulfill that role…. Really? I’m not there to humbly learn, but to teach? …. Now, if it’s something I or that leader gradually grew into our out of, and we’re already both members, I don’t know what I would do. It depends on the culture and situation and God’s leading. I’m not for church-leaving. But God also extremely values overall unity in the church (in the general emphasis of the body’s glorifying Christ).
  19. Also from Vitaliy: If you are truly interested in blessing that Other Person (or group of people), ask God what HE is doing in that other person’s (group’s) life. Then pray to join that work (even if it’s only in prayer). Your Issue #1 might be issue #8 or #22 on God’s priorities for that person.

about controversial things

My mom is probably cringing.

Honestly, I am cringing, a bit.

Have you ever analyzed your own progression as a person with opinions? I think about this, I guess as I get older and make more defining life/parenting/schooling/health choices, how I hold those opinions begins to define me, maybe more than the opinions themselves. Weirdly. Or maybe it’s the other way around– that how I express my opinions is basically the result of who I am.

But I like to think I’m growing in the first way, that I am growing in maturity, hopefully, in how I express my opinions, and in understanding those who have very deep-seated opposite opinions. I think about who I’m becoming, and so the lines I would allow myself to cross (ex. rudeness) or the barriers of communication that I place around me (ex. not allowing myself to be rude) are a big part of who I am becoming.

I also struggle a lot with just being silent. It’s a really big temptation to become sort of a non-person and just never express an opinion. Silence can be a good thing, like as a pastor’s wife I try very carefully not to state emotionally charged opinions. It’s a weird line– the non-person thing and choosing to subsume things for the gospel’s sake.

Ramble, ramble.

When I was in birth work, this was really, really hard, and it’s been a relief to quit that work because of this. Because I had so many opinions. And opinions are a mix of judgment and conviction, so we have to learn to hold them lightly, yet hold them for ourselves because I think it’s a way God communicates individually with us, if we let Him, and not just follow the crowd for the sake of comfort. It’s one thing to do what “everyone’s” doing because everyone’s doing it. Another thing to do it because you searched out God in that thing. This is why, bizarrely, I think people can come to opposite conclusions and have godly motives.

Also, there are complex ways we receive, filter, and “believe” information which make it impossible for us to agree with one another. So in a big way, there really is just no point in trying to explain. Two people read the same book and have opposite reactions. Two people watch the same movie and have opposite reactions. Two people read the same “facts” or information and have opposite reactions.

So I’m going to talk about health care choices– birth choices, vaccine choices, administering medicines choices. For example [this assumes first-, second- and some third-world countries’ choices] , two people meet a friend whose child was irreversibly brain damaged by a vaccination (true example, I can give you name and number, though they don’t speak English). One friend says, Wow, how rare and unfortunate, but it’s such a small risk, I don’t mind vaccinating my child and all other children. The benefits of vaccines are greater than the risks. The other says, How tragic, I would never put my child or another child in that risk; I would rather risk the small possibility of contracting some usually-not-fatal disease …. Another example, a non-vaccinated family of children contracts whooping cough and has to live through all the stress and fears of that coughing. Some parents look on and say, No way I want that stress. Other parents look on and say, That’s not such a bad experience. (And there are rare children who die of vaccines and rare children who die of a common disease, and we could argue about that on and on, which one is the risk all people should take.)

It’s hard to let people chose their risks. It’s hard to be honest about what the risks really are.

There are times I try to step back and say, God, if I’m wrong about this, please show me…. It’s tricky. For example, the information could be right and applicable in one situation then incorrect and inapplicable in another situation. We don’t know how individual children will react to one thing or another.

Same with birth. So.many.choices.

And the use of medications. So.many.choices.

Even in reading and researching, I try to read all sides. But I also know that I am leaning towards believing my bias–that my tendency is to find an authority who will appealingly and convincingly state my bias.

But in the end, I’m still choosing between risks.

I have found a few things helpful, because when it’s your kids, these things can take on terrifying levels:

  1. My relationship with God makes a difference. But it makes a difference to people in different ways. Here is my way:
  2. God made bodily processes to work. I don’t think they evolved. They were specifically designed and made complex and beautiful. Better left undisturbed. For example, the fever is there for a reason. It has a purpose, though it makes me nervous. My nervousness and concern for the fevered one is there for a purpose. Do I use a fever-reducer so I will feel relieved? Do I see a good reason in the child to use it?
  3. God leads me in patterns in these questions. I have distinct patterns in my life how God leads me in these decisions.I have sat next to a burning child with something to give in hand, asking God what to do. I have gotten distinct answers. I also pay attention for moments when God might break the pattern.
  4. I understand that I am comparatively wealthy, eat a varied diet, have access to reasonable levels of healthcare, clean water, understand microbes and disease transmission, have access to abundant information, etc. These are wonderful blessings God has provided for me throughout life. These factors influence my personal analysis of various risks.
  5. I try to discern types of fear. There is a fear that is God-given and natural. It’s a good thing because of sin. There is fear that is debilitating and driving, that wants to destroy me and others by its demands. It drives me to sacrifice to idols, to bargaining with and trusting in things or people that, in truth, cannot save me. And determining what course of action is needed in any given situation is a sorting out fears, or choosing from the spectrum of risks/fears.
  6. For example, my daughter (6yo) had stomach pain. It didn’t stop. We took her to a pediatrician who said she was constipated. The pain didn’t stop. That night, I just knew, somehow knew instinctively, that I needed to set my alarm to wake up in the night to check that she hadn’t died in her sleep. I never said it aloud, it was just such a deep knowing/assuming. But before we slept, we decided to call the ambulance. As I watched her drive away, I was absolutely sure she would die. (Ended up being a very serious appendectomy, huge infection, etc; she didn’t die).
  7. Consider: A doctor and medical intervention didn’t help us the first time. Where is the line of trusting doctors and trusting God? Are we asking/expecting of doctors/medical care what they are not able to give us? Life and health? Diagnoses? Absence of disease? Relief from pain? Though legally they are considered able and competent to do these things … can they really, if God does not reveal it to them and allow its efficacy in our lives? The fact that there were antibiotics for her peritonitis was wonderful–and that they worked.
  8. We often gain from medical and scientific advances. Yay for antibiotics. Yay for c-sections. Yay for x-rays. Yet they are limited and even harmful in other ways in this sinful world. The things invented to save us also injure us to some extent. I guess that goes back to the personal choices …

I could go on and on. I’m only warming to my topic…. But anyway, those are my current-level-of-maturity ramblings about controversial topics…..

Numbering our days when our kids are little

Yesterday I gave a talk at a baby shower. It was an event where there were several unbelievers and also ladies who, years back, made a salvation-but-not-disciple commitment to the Lord.

When I was walking home one night, I started praying about what to speak about at this event, and I started crying when the Lord impressed it on me also on that walk home. I’ve been reading the major prophets and those books are very emotional, and it all connected in my mind.

Historically, I try to make baby shower talks pretty upbeat and positive. But this was not so positive, so I’ve been processing it, how to speak it in an appropriate and encouraging way.

This baby is so adorably little and cute– collective swoon!

I downloaded a metronome app on my phone, and as I started the talk, without telling anyone, I turned it on with a really slow beat. And I started talking about the passage of time.

Gist of the talk:

Psalm 90, a psalm of Moses: “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away….. A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night…. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

About five years ago, I started going through a life shift where I realized that the day of my death is closer to me than the day of my birth. The see saw tipped.

I remember being in school–how slowly the days passed by! I thought they would never end. Then college– time got a little faster. Then marriage. And little kids.

[metronome ticking gets a little faster]

When my first kids were little, time seemed so slow! Like it would never end. [metronome ticking gets faster, faster] But now, the time has started to get faster and faster– my first child is more than half-way done with school. She’s getting ready (in multiple ways) to fly away. [metronome ticks faster]

People have tried to explain why time seems to pass faster as we age. It’s still the exact same time but our perception of it changes. One reason is because, when we’re 10, ten years is the entirety of life. But when we’re 40, ten years is now only a fourth of life. At 50, it’s only a fifth of life, and so on.

Our feeling of time changes, and this is part of gaining a heart of wisdom.

There are people who’s spiritual growth doesn’t match their years of salvation. Somewhere, they didn’t trust God enough to obey Him in life decisions. And when we’re young, we tend to be pretty suspicious of God and the goodness of his plans. We haven’t lived enough years with God to grow into trusting him. And if we don’t get through those doubtful moments by faith, we can derail our growth by making disobedient choices.

Like the fear that God doesn’t want me to marry, and I’ll be single forever if I am faithful to Him.

It’s always time to start obeying God. It gets harder, in certain ways, as we get older, if it’s not been the habit. And time is passing faster, so the moments God offers us obedience tend to speed by faster.

But in these years when your kids are small, years that seem like they will never end, these are years you can choose to obey God. Like rest on Saturday so you can go to church on Sunday– so you can take your child to a place where people teach him/her about God and His love.

These years are the years your child/ren clings to you. It’s annoying and tiring, but it’s the years God gave you to lead your child to Him–what you sow now is what you’ll be reaping in a few years!

We think we have so little time to do what we want, but in reality, we can obey. Do we want to spend time scrolling through facebook while breastfeeding? … Why don’t we choose to read the Bible during that time first? … We do have a choice to obey.

And during these slow years, it’s essential to obey. Start obeying God. Because soon the years will be speeding by, the children will be saying good-bye.

Let’s gain a heart of wisdom.