The arrival of menopause gives women the opportunity to claim the gift of expanded time. With this gift in hands, we can open the door into another dimension of time: kairos. Kairos is an ancient Greek term conveying ‘opportunity’ or ‘season’. In Christian theology, kairos is used to symbolize ‘God’s time’ or ‘the fullness of time.’
Menopause is God’s kairos for women. It is our season for an in-breaking of the Spirit and greater spiritual freedom.—Cheryl Bridges Johns
When I was working on my book about midlife, I put together a list of books that readers could reference if they wanted to further expand their thinking on the topic. One book I wish I could have added to that list is Cheryl Bridges Johns’s Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause: An Unexpected Spiritual Journey. It released a couple of weeks ago, so the timing didn’t quite work with my own writing/publishing schedule, but I am taking the opportunity to commend it to you now.
Johns, the Robert E. Fisher Chair of Spiritual Renewal at Pentecostal Theological Seminary, contends that the physiological, emotional, and spiritual changes that accompany the arc of menopause in our lives can be assets. Church and culture alike tend to treat menopause as the gateway to a woman’s diminished value and power. Johns insists the opposite is true. “(Menopause is) a special space wherein I could rewrite the story of my life,” she writes. “I was passing through a portal into a richer and fuller way of being in the world…I had found the crucible of my remaking.”
She writes with insight and power about the gifts embedded in this crucible including recovery of our youthful passions and strengths, anger (yes, as a necessary gift!), an authentic self, a deeper understanding of time and our relationship with it, spiritual freedom, vision, and courage.
I found her chapter on the gift of anger very helpful as it helped me name some of what I experienced when I was in the thick of this transition in my life. “We cannot mature into to the second half of life without change, and sometimes we have to get angry enough to change things,” Johns writes. We learn early on to stuff or deflect anger, and the biochemical and emotional changes at midlife are meant to help us recognize that this nice-making is not healthy, truthful, or loving. The gift of anger can be holy and necessary, and can lead to just change both in our lives and in our churches and culture.
Johns grew up in very conservative church circles, and her experience of growth and change – first within and then beyond those formational experiences – will resonate with many readers. The Seven Transforming Gifts of Menopause is an excellent companion for women who are seeking to make sense of gifts that may not look much like gifts at first glance, but are embedded in our lives as graces for growth from our Maker.
Note: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher, but as I mentioned above, I loved it enough that I wished I could have included in my own book’s appendix.