#thismidlifecrisis, Part 2

Midlife Crisis

Wow, folks!  I start a post with an announcement of my midlife crisis, and more people read it than ever.  I’m not sure what that means, but we’re going to go with it.  In that post, I shared the sense that I am in the midst of a pivotal moment, and some of the decisions that I feel led to make as I look ahead (with more excitement than dread) to the second half of this life that I’ve been given.  Specifically, I feel compelled to lean into these five words in this season:

  • Trust – Confront fear with courage
  • Invest – Make intentional time and space for my most important relationships
  • Speak – Find and use my unique voice.
  • Love – Become love.
  • Risk – Live without regrets.

Let me share a little bit more in this installment about trust.  I don’t know exactly when I realized it, but I now understand that I have lived a significant amount of my life reacting to a variety of fears (most of them completely unfounded).  While I can’t pinpoint a specific cause for this life-trajectory, I can easily articulate what it has looked like – from a very early age.  For me, it has looked like an avoidance of risk – “What if?” could easily be my middle name.  Fear has been a driving factor in so many areas of my life – decision-making, relationships (from friendship to family, marriage and parenting), work, and even faith.

In decision-making, fear drives the bus when the first question that pops into my head is, “What could go wrong?”  In friendship, fear leads the way when I become needy and clingy – “They haven’t texted or called in a while. What did I do to make them mad?”  In marriage, fear shows up in the constant sense of not living up to the husband my wife deserves.  In parenting, fear looks like a short leash that doesn’t encourage the kind of growing independence every child needs to develop.  In work (which in my case is ministry), fear relies on public affirmation rather than internal assurance – and can focus with laser-like intensity on the one thing that isn’t going right rather than the fifty or sixty that are.

Perhaps most insidious, fear makes me want to hide from God – knowing that I’ve disappointed Him again – rather than approaching God with the confidence that flows out of my identity as a child of God based solely on the lavish love of a Father who calls me His beloved.  I remember, in high school, sharing with a classmate that I was struggling with some fear around dying (having experienced some significant losses in those formative years).  When she responded by sharing with me I John 4:18, “Perfect love casts out fear,” I didn’t take it as an encouragement to lean into the love that I had already experienced from God.  Instead, I began to worry that maybe I didn’t know God at all – a thought that didn’t exactly help me fall asleep at night.

The choice I’m making at this critical juncture in my faith and life, however, is to confront my fear with the courage of trust.  As a pastor, I have preached and counseled countless times that courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to walk on in spite of the fear.  But, more than ever in my life up to this point, I’m trying to live it out.  In my relationships, I’m choosing to trust my friends and family by being honest and vulnerable, opening up to ask for forgiveness, and seeking out their prayer and support.

In my work, I’m choosing trust over fear in what is an incredibly anxious time for my part of the body of Christ called The United Methodist Church.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t have anxiety about what the future may hold.  However, I’m choosing to follow my wife’s wisdom – that Jesus will still be on the throne, and that my call to pastoral ministry will still have a place to be lived out.  In a season of ministry where I find myself missing the work of pastoring a local church, I’m following the wisdom of my closest friends, one a pastor and one a layperson, to find those pieces of my work that most feel like pastoring, and throw myself into them.

In my faith, I’m clinging with everything I am to the words of two songs whose words have been constant companion to my journey in these last few months.

Hillsong Worship recorded the song, Who You Say I Am, which includes this phrase (repeated several times, I’m convinced, just so I get it):

“I am chosen, not forsaken – I am who You say I am.
You are for me, not against me – I am who You say I am.”

And Lauren Daigle, who God has consistently used over the last few years to speak into my life, sings in “You Say”:

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me.
In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity.
You say I am loved, when I can’t feel a thing.
You say I am strong, when I think I am weak.
And You say I am held, when I am falling short.
When I don’t belong, oh, You say that I am Yours.
And I believe , oh I believe, what You say of me.
Ultimately, I’m holding onto what a pastor friend of mine shared to start a meeting we shared this week.  It is a word that Jesus spoke to his earliest disciples, shortly before he left them to go into heaven – and after giving them what had to seem like an insurmountable and terrifying mission to make disciples of all nations.  Matthew 28:20, a verse I have read and quoted thousands of times, came alive to me in a new way as he shared it from the New Living Translation, “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
No matter what fear you may be facing, friends, confront it with courage by trusting God, by trusting those who love you, and by trusting yourself.  And be sure of this: God is with you always.
Leaning Into Tomorrow,
Larry
*Friends – if you find any of this helpful, encouraging or challenging, I’d love for you to do two things.  First, share it with someone else who might need to hear it as well.  Second, let me know how it’s spoken to you.
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