“It’s ok. It really is ok.”

099_dead_tree.jpg    This past Sunday our Sunday School class sat in a circle, as we sometimes do, and just kind of shared a little of what was going on with us.

It became pretty clear very soon what was going on with most of us. You see, our class is made up of couples in their 40’s.

Middle age is what’s going on.

I’ve heard a few good definitions of “middle age”. “Middle-age is where you have to deal with gray hair and zits.”, and then there are some I won’t repeat here. My own working definition, though, is one that was reflected by the class Sunday.

Middle age is that time of life when you are caring for both your children and your aging parents.

The folks in our class are dealing with kid issues. Anywhere from infertility and a lack of kids, to pregnancy, to kindergarten, to high school and beyond. We are dealing with parents in, or approaching, declining health, declining independence, long term care issues, and a host of complex, related issues. Our prayer requests are dominated by what’s happening in both these groups. Nothing wrong with this, it’s just a good marker of this stage of life.

We find ourselves in positions of having to make big decisions, but not being in control. Letting go, but still being responsible in some instances, and taking hold, but not too tightly, in others. Trying to find any sense of balance is difficult at best. And we often feel like we are caught in a riptide and being carried along no matter how hard we swim for the shore.

But what I hear (and feel) most, in us middle folks, is worry and guilt. Worry about what’s coming, and guilt that we haven’t, and can’t do enough to fix it.

The “what could be’s”, and “I want to’s” of youth turn into “what if’s”, and “I wish I had, or could’s”.  Both youth and middle age are colored with possibilities, but the colors seem to get darker as we get older.

If we are aware at all of  God we ask for help and wisdom. But at a deeper level we’re also asking , “Do I really trust you? Can I really trust you?” 

_________________

I was on a retreat a couple of years ago. I was tired, and though I didn’t know it at the time, anxious about life and death. My Dad had recently been in the hospital, and an aunt and two uncles were either terminally ill, or had died in the previous year.  I was ready for some refreshment, I was ready for a retreat.

Part of the day was to be spent in a “creational theology” exercise. The basic jist of the exercise is that God speaks through His creation, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork. Day to day pours out speech….Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”, so we go out and try to listen to His voice, to pay attention to Him in His creation. Then typically we come back together and talk about what we’ve heard.

It was September and the forest was in that late summer mode. A few tulip poplar leaves coming down, but most of the trees were green and in full leaf. As I walked around I wondered if I would see and hear something more than just, “This place is beautiful” (when I do exercises like this I feel a certain amount of pressure to come back with something profound and spiritual to share, but it doesn’t always happen that way). I noticed the poplar leaves coming down and began to think about the coming fall, the changing seasons, how all the leaves would soon change and drop. I thought about the longer seasons of the forest too. I saw the saplings and young trees, the fully mature strong oaks and maples, and those long dead with rotting trunks still marking their place in the forest. How each was planted and tended, brought to maturity, and would die. I couldn’t help but think about how this was a picture of my life, all our lives.

And I realized something.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. The forrest is always this way, filled with life, death, birth, growth. God’s still in control. He still tends and cares for generation after generation. Even in a fallen world where suffering and death are real, even when it doesn’t look like it, He will, in the end (and the middle), have His way. 

If you will pardon the unbelievably obvious pun, I could now see a little more of the forest instead of just the trees. (I know, I’m sorry, it’s terrible. You had to see it coming though)

And because I could see a little more of the whole, I can trust Him more for my little piece.

Like Julian Of Norwich, I can now say, “All will be well, all manner of things shall be well.”

What I heard that day, and many times since, is, “It’s ok. It really is ok.” 

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