So my 30’s are almost over… one more trip around the sun and I’ll be 40.  Some consider that to be halftime… I should be so fortunate.

There is a part of me that is quite thankful my 30’s are almost over.  We had our first child when I was 31 and becoming a parent proved to me just how inflexible I had become in life.  Children have this way of either making you more flexible or breaking you.  I broke.  And then I became more flexible.  Now with three sons I have to remain flexible both in body and in soul.  Of course  something happens to the human body and soul as we age… we become less flexible – usually.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  At least not entirely.

I’m attempting a rebellion against the 2nd law of thermodynamics and I’m learning – if ever-so-slowly – to become more flexible in body and soul.  One of my overall goals is to be in the best overall shape of my life when I turn 40 in August of next year.  I know that I won’t be able to run quite as fast as I did in high school and college, but I will be able to lift more, go further, and challenge myself in ways that require flexibility of the soul.

“Why?”  I’m glad you asked.  Let me explain… is this the mid-life crisis return to the narcissism of youth?  Well, actually there might be a tinge of that, but I don’t think that is what is at the heart of it all.  Knowing our own hearts is certainly one of the hardest endeavors we experience this side of eternity.  There seem to be so many layers upon layers of motivations, desires and impulses that  we can soon lose the very heart we were so desperately seeking.  “Search me, O God, and know my heart, try me and know my thoughts” the Psalmist cried… and I’ll barrow that prayer.

Part of my motivation is to simply “be” the person I hope to be by the grace God has given.  “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.”  Another motivation is to be around longer and stay healthier to see my boys become the men of grace God will make them out to be.  My lovely bride appreciates my efforts and it is a common value we both share.  Another part of me hates it when I hear things like “well, just wait until you’re in your 40’s.”  Or when parents tell their kids that while they may enjoy a high metabolism now they’re destined to an adult life of obesity… yes, to my amazement I’ve heard these words uttered.

I finally read “The Paleo Diet for Athletes” and realized that while I have been doing a lot of things right I still have a lot of room for improvement regarding my diet.  So I committed to a stricter version of the diet for at least one year along with increasing both endurance and strength with Crossfit, Spartan Races, my own workout routines etc…

I  shared this personal goal with my wife and a few close friends and a fascinating thing occurred… most of them have begun to grow in their own motivations for change in the same areas.  Even more fascinating to me is that I’ve noticed how this renovation has energized me to make improvements in other areas of my life… as a teacher, as a coach, as a father and a friend.  So I’m putting my commitment “out there” for others so that hopefully you can find more strength for your own “mid-life crisis.”

Assuming you’ve continued reading this far, what are the areas in your life in which you hope for more? 

(a few thoughts i had while on personal retreat at Well of Mercy)

i sit on the porch observing the rain as it falls loudly on the ground and comes to rest on the canopy of trees around me.  i notice the pools widen and the earth soften from each drop.  i smell the freshness in the air.

however i can’t fully know the rain as an objective observer.  only seeing, listening, smelling.  to fully experience the rain myself i have to get off the porch and enter the downpour.  to be merely a casual observer of a thing is not to know a thing.  the critic can sit and observe but to love requires entering into a place free of illusory controls.

to feel the impact of the rain on my own skin, and to receive from it both the cold and the cover, the nourishment and the expense, i must enter in… entirely.

the incarnation is not simply a one-time event to be celebrated at Christmas.  it continues.  Jesus the Christ is our Emmanuel – God WITH us.  there is never a situation or experience where we are left to ourselves.  he has entered in and has not left us alone.  he feels the impact of our pains, joys, aches and hopes.  he knows intimately the many complex layers of our lives and is unafraid, undaunted, and relentless.

who knows better the inner terrain of our hearts than the one who has formed them?

Not that they don’t have their place or that I never use them, but I’d much rather run outside.  In the elements.  Preferably through the woods.  Treadmills keep you from doing what you are telling your body to do… run that way.  It’s even worse if you go to a big box gym and have to look at mirrors while your run.  The hum of a thousand treadmills and the smells of a thousand runners under one roof.  There’s inspiration!

No.  I think I’d rather find a trail or even a track or a road.  For me there is a sense of freedom and joy to be off the not-going-anywhere-machines and enjoying a go-anywhere run.  Even running around in circles on a track is preferable to the treadmill.  But we all do it.  Right?  We all get on treadmills of some sort and continue to pound out the miles never really getting anywhere.  That is until something comes along and disrupts our routines of living – or coping if you prefer.  It is most often the frightful and many times painful experiences that cause the disruption.  Relationships fail, jobs end, lives come to an abrupt halt.  Then a haunting awareness seeps into our otherwise foggy consciousness and asks us a simple yet profound question: “what are you doing with the time you’ve been given?”  Or in other words, “why are you on this treadmill to begin with?!”

However, it could be an otherwise joyous occasion creating the same effect.  The birth of a child, a new job, a new relationship… Albert Schweitzer said that “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out (treadmill). It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”  It is in connections with “the other” that our lives are revealed for what they are and sometimes that revealing is not entirely pleasant.  Intimacy scares me.  I want to be known but I still want to control.  How’s that for an oxymoron?

“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom”