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.