Last night I was thumbing through a book by Gordon MacDonald entitled, "A Resilient Life." His chapter, "Resilient people foresee the great questions of life's passage," so struck me that I read it through twice, and then once more.
Let me summarize it for you.
It is very important to identify as many of the significant questions that people are asking as they move through the decades of life. If we can do that, we will know a lot more about big-picture thinking and resilience.
People in their twenties are preoccupied with clarifying their identity.
They ask questions like:
What kind of a man or woman am I becoming?
How am I different from my mother or father?
Where can I find a few friends who will welcome me as I am and who will offer the familylike connections that I need (or never had)?
Can I love, and am I lovable?
These are relational questions.
People in their twenties fear rejection, loneliness and the feeling that they might not fit in. They need to find a place, a people to whom they can belong.
They are asking:
What will I do with my life?
What is it that I really wanting exchange for my life's labors?
They wrestle with the lordship question - Around what person or conviction will I organize my life?
People in their thirties are asking:
How do I prioritize the demands being made on my life?
How far can I go in fulfilling my sense of purpose?
Who are the people with whom I know I walk through life.
What does my spiritual life look like?
Do I even have time for one?
MacDonald writes, "There is usually an expansion of responsibility and no expansion of time. Life becomes busy. There are spouses to love and know more intimately, children who need endless amounts of attention, and jobs/careers that absorb energy. Homes must be maintained, bills paid, obligations to organizations met. Suddenly one must budget the yesses and the noes of life, and these decisions are not simply or easily made."
There are new questions that pop up in our forties.
We begin to recognize that we can no longer put off our flaws and failures as youthfulness and inexperience. Panic and fear are for younger (and older?) people. In our forties, the expectation is that we are solid.
Still....There are questions:
Who was I as a child, and what powers back then influence the kind of person I am today?
Why do some people seem to be doing better than I?
Why am I often disappointed in myself and others?
Why are limitations beginning to outnumber options?
MacDonald writes, "I believe the forties to be dangerous, uncharted waters for a lot of us. Lots of things begin to happen for which many of us are not prepared. Bodies change. Children become more independent, even begin to leave home. Marriages have to be readjusted to face new realities. Some of us being to enjoy financial leverage; others of us begin to assume that we will never be materially secure. Some give up the fight to achieve lifelong goals and settle into a defensive posture of living. Others miss their youth and its seeming excitement so much that they try going backward to retrieve earlier pleasures."
Why do I seem to face so many uncertainties?
What can I do to make a greater contribution to my generation?
What would it take to pick up a whole new calling in life and do the things I've always wanted to do?
People in their fifties find themselves wondering how many years are left. The news of friends dying, marriages dissolving, and people moving to places of retirement increases.
It can be a time for sober thinking.
You find yourself asking, "Why is time moving so fast?"
Why is my body becoming unreliable?
How do I deal with my failures and my successes?
How can my spouse and I reinvigorate our relationship now that the children are gone?
Who are these young people who want to replace me?
What do I do with my doubts and fears?
Will we have enough money for the retirement years if there are health problems and economic downturns?
People in their sixties are asking:
When do I stop doing the things that have always defined me?
Why do I feel ignored by a large part of the younger population?
Why am I curious about who is listed in the obituary column of the papers, how they died, and hat kinds of lives they lived?
Do I have enough time to do all the things I've dreamed about in the past?
Who will be around me when I die?
Which one of us will go first (if you are married), and what is it like to say good-bye to someone with whom you have shared so many years of life?
What do I regret?
And what are the chief satisfactions of these many years of living?
What have I done that will out live me.
People in their seventies and eighties are asking:
Does anyone realize, or even care, who I once was?
Is anyone aware that I owned (or managed) a business, threw a mean curveball, taught school, possessed a beautiful solo voice, had an attractive face? Is may story important to anyone?
How much of life can I still control?
Is there anything I can still contribute?
Heaven? What is it like?
I encourage you to get the book if you can, if not for this one chapter. And what really struck me was not only the way MacDonald nailed the questions that I am asking in my forties, but it also emphasized to me that we can't minister to people in the different decades in the same way. Or can we? What do you think?
How can we minister to people who are living in different decades of their lives and answer their questions when the questions are different?
Let me know....