by Melinda Viergever Inman
From the first day of our lives, we’re broken. Unfortunately, we believe we’re invincible, and so, we’re reckless, careless with our bodies. We hurl our bodies at one another in sport. We drive with reckless abandon. We burn the candle at both ends. We take ridiculous risks.
In truth, we’re as fragile as pottery, mere dust. Into this clay, God’s light shines into our hearts, as he gives us “the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6b NIV). Though previously we were blind, God opens our eyes to see.
I coasted into my fifties, basking in the glory of a bottomless well of strength, my children mostly all raised, and with good health as my best friend. I had newly embarked upon a career as a writer, and I was loving every minute of it.
Around me, women my age were discussing oils, herbs, and creams. I didn’t pay attention. How could that have anything to do with me? I felt invincible.
Two years into my fifties, a series of injuries produced by a horrific fall and then a collision between our van and a semi sent me reeling into an awareness of my own mortality. To top it off, on the first day of what proved to be my last period, my car collided with a deer on a dark country road. Welcome to menopause. With a broken body and new hormonal changes, the joyful high faded.
My own body turned traitor. It began to fall apart in places I’d never dreamed would be affected by lack of hormones. All of this trauma sparked an autoimmune disease. Soon I realized I should have listened to those conversations about oils, herbs, and creams.
I’d entered menopause as recklessly as I had approached adolescence and young adulthood. My “can do” spirit was too large.
As often happens, I next faced a chorus of my adult children helping me to see my blind spots. When children gain adulthood, they eventually become peers. Open conversations needed to occur, mistakes admitted, apologies made for oversights and failures.
In all of this tumult, God opened my eyes. He made me more fully acquainted with myself for the first time in my life. This is but one of the many blessings of midlife.
Finally, I recognized my abject brokenness. As a result, on deeper levels than ever before, I desired relationship with this God who loves me so fiercely, no matter my mistakes or the neglected wisdom I should have acquired, and no matter how broken my body.
I ran into his open arms.
God imparts wisdom in many ways. Often, we learn from his Word. More often than not, it’s the school of calamity as our self-awareness is honed. Why would the Lord have it so? Why must our bodies be broken hormonally and physically as we age? I didn’t understand. But, thankfully, the Lord drew me in close to himself, eventually answering those questions plainly.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 ESV).
We’re designed to need Jesus. Until we’re made right with him, we’re undone. And so, we’re squeezed and pummeled by life. The only thing that prevents our ultimate crushing is God himself. He shows himself strong in our hard times, using these for good in our lives as we learn about his love for us, no matter what. When we turn to him, we’re upheld, for he never forsakes us, whether we feel his nearness or not. His presence is a fact.
Midlife teaches these lessons. Here, we begin to glimpse the wisdom that can be acquired if we’re willing to stare unflinchingly at all of our broken places.
As we age, we feel death at work in our bodies. We recognize that we’re merely sojourners through life on this planet. One day, we will die. However, we realize that God is with us, hearing every thought, knowing every need, even before we do. He never abandons nor forsakes us. We comfort ourselves with this and cry out to him.
And, of course, God has words of comfort.
“For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So, death is at work in us, but life in you. Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Corinthians 4:11-14 ESV).
There’s much beauty here. As we enter midlife, day by day, we are given over to death for the sake of Jesus. Ever more clearly, we discover how he is revealed in our weak and broken clay forms. His power, his presence, his nearness, his Spirit are all displayed within us, so that he can transform us spiritually from the inside out. Finally, at last, he will bring us into his presence. That’s a promise.
Unless Christ returns first, we must become like him in his death to be whole and at one with him. We must die. The signs of our aging and the decay of our bodies are thus signposts for rejoicing, rather than omens to fear or dread. This week I turn sixty. As I look back on this past decade, I thank God for the breaking and for the wisdom he has brought with it.
Raised on the Oklahoma plains in a storytelling family, Melinda Viergever Inman now spins tales from her writer’s cave in the coastal South. Her faith-filled fiction illustrates our human story, wrestling with our brokenness and the storms that wreak havoc in our lives. She blogs weekly at https://melindainman.com/blog.
Cover photo by Sarah Cervantes on Unsplash
Oh, Melinda! I can understand completely! Things I took for granted in strength, clarity, multi-tasking—all start changing. The things on which I have depended all my life I recognize I can no longer depend. I love your words,”The only thing that prevents our ultimate crushing is God himself. He shows himself strong in our hard times, using these for good in our lives as we learn about his love for us, no matter what. When we turn to him, we’re upheld, for he never forsakes us, whether we feel his nearness or not. His presence is a fact.” His presence, His goodness, His strength is what I have needed all along. Perhaps getting older has allowed me to cling more tightly to Him in ways I never could before. Blessings!
Lisa, thanks for commenting and for your kind words! These final years are so good for centering us on Jesus. We crumble, our bodies start to fall apart, our emotions are battered to and fro, our children are generally all raised. We have identities outside of our fertility and our family.
So many challenges! So much breaking and shattering as we discover how fragile we actually are! It’s like we’re being stripped clean to the bones, so there’s nothing between us and Jesus. That’s how we’ll come into heaven — no outside baggage. I’m learning to lean on Jesus, who so tenderly holds me in his arms. He’s with us through all of this, and he understands the breaking, for he has endured it himself.
I definitely understand!! Life can change so quickly, and the things we took for granted slip away in a moment. I’m thankful for the rest and peace and love I have in Jesus.
Amen, Jessica! He holds us together for all of life’s changes and/or catches us when we crumble, whichever he deems is the best! The older we grow, the dearer he becomes!
God imparts wisdom in many ways. Often, we learn from his Word. More often than not, it’s the school of calamity as our self-awareness is honed.
This is beautiful Melinda. How we need Christ. In our weeaknesses and we have so many. But l love God’s grace His power that is all sufficient, all l need!
Thankfully, he’s right there with us in the school of calamity, seemingly the only school where we actually learn and apply truth to our lives! The Lord’s Spirit is a wonderful Comforter, and as I age, I’m glad I grow increasingly more aware of his presence! Thanks for commenting, Ava!
This was beautiful and encouraging, Melinda! I am reminded of God telling Paul His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. I try to remember that each time my weaknesses are revealed (which is often!). Thank you for this encouragement today!
Emily, the physical weakness and the relentless breaking down that comes with aging are the refiners God uses so powerfully in our final years. We won’t “get well,” and we won’t ultimately “bounce back.” And so, these not only place us in increasing reliance upon Christ, but also remind us clearly and soberly of our mortality. That’s a very good thing, as Paul so often wrote. I love that about Paul! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Beautiful and wise. Ava picked up above the quote that so struck me too – that “often it is in the school of calamity that our self-awareness is honed.” The most wonderful thing is to have true intimacy and utter trust in the Lord, whatever it takes.
One of the best things about Jesus, Ava and Pam! Our calamity has a purpose for our good, and he sees to its working out!
The “school of calamity” quote rang with me, as well. You have an advanced degree from that school, but you graduated with honors! Happy Birthday!
Barb, thanks, I think! LOL! School of Hard Knocks, School of Calamity, whichever, it seems to be the only way for me to learn these things. I’m a tough nut to crack! But I do so very much want to grow and learn!
First of all, Happy Birthday! I love this post and what you said about signs of aging being a signpost for rejoicing instead of fear and dread. As we go through our different stages of life it is so wonderful to know that God never changes and is with us every step of the way.
I agree with you completely, S.A.! What would we do without him! His mercy and grace provide such comfort, and then he leads us tenderly through the messes we make and into real growth! I couldn’t see myself clearly until this process had repeated itself frequently, and I was in midlife! Thanks for commenting!
Wow. You’ve been through a decade-and-a-half! Bless your heart, my friend, and the wisdom you acquired through the trials. That is what is amazing about the Christian journey. What suffering produces in us, when we allow the Master Potter to form us and mold us, is a good thing, albeit hard. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. I am right there with you – going through the same changes – recognizing my deeper reliance on Him because of it.
I love what you said here, Lisa! The Potter! We have to always keep in mind who is hard at work at the Potter’s wheel. He knows exactly what he’s striving to produce in us, both gently and through those rough spots. And isn’t it good how he’s with us through all of it, working even these broken places together for good!
We usually read the passage about jars of clay–and then stop there.
Jars of clay to show His power. That’s profound. God bless!
The breaking of clay jars demonstrates our reality. We have this treasure in jars of clay, our immortal souls inside fragile forms. This reality is a powerful tool in God’s hands. Thanks for commenting on the profundity of our Lord and his tactics, Nancy!
Melinda, this is everyone’s story in one form or another. We throw our bodies around like professional wrestlers and then imagine ourselves triumphantly taking the champion belt with ease. But it goes deeper than our bodies, much deeper. I appreciate how you peeled back the layers of self exposure. This is the painful yet beautiful work of the Holy Spirit. The older I become, the more I become aware of my great need for Christ. Ultimately, this is a precious gift from God. May I become weaker, that He may grow stronger. “We’re designed to need Jesus. Until we’re made right with him, we’re undone.” That says it all!
He must increase, but I must decrease, Paul said. That pretty much summarizes it. Breaking down in all its forms sure does accomplish that, as Paul also learned. The more we’re stripped to the bones, the more we realize our great need for him, and that’s a very good thing! You’re so right, Melissa.
I am becoming more aware of my need for Christ daily. It is hard d to imagine my life without Him now.
Yes, that’s so true! He grows ever more dear to us, doesn’t he, Yvonne!
This is so good and so on time for me! I have recently had a scare due to hormonal issues caused by menopause and faced a scare the last couple of months with the “C” word. Thank God it is NOT a bad report…yay Jesus, and can be treated with the right hormones/meds. God has been showing me through life events that our life is a vapor and we have to trust HE is in charge and IN HIM we have all we need for overcoming even life’s scary trials and sorrows. We are made one with Him in sufferings. Thank you for this post…so spoke to me personally! Blessings IN CHRIST! 🙏🏻💖
Melinda, you always mange to pull on my heartstrings! I agree completely with your words. Brokenness can be a beautiful thing if we embrace change and lean into the Potter’s hands. Blessings, dear friend.