There is a common notion of a mid-life crisis. Someone goes out and tries to sow their wild oats or struggles with the fact that they are no longer young. Some men might go by a Harley or a sports car. A few years back, The Huffington Post did an article called, “7 Signs You Might Be Facing a Midlife Crisis.” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/12/midlife-crisis_n_4419481.html)
1) You start panicking about health issues.
2) You have more questions like, “Is this all there is? Who am I? Why am I doing this?”
3) You start comparing yourself more and more to friends you count more successful.
4) You have a sudden acknowledgement of the passing of time.
5) You have a sudden urge to lose weight, get in shape, connect with high school friends, etc.
6) You’re reverting to teenage tactics.
7) You are more interested in feeling better and having more energy.
I think the midlife crisis begins with the inquiry of what am I doing with my life. Have I made the right choices? Am I the best person I can be? Have I lived up to my potential? Do I have as many possibilities ahead of me as I did when I graduated from high school? The midlife crisis is an existential reflection on our created-ness and mortality. We want to know are we living a good life so that when it comes to the end we can say we had a good life. Not just a good life, but a life that fulfilled your calling and purpose.
I have a cross in my office that is inscribed with the words from Jeremiah 29: 11, “For I know the plans I have for you.” The full verse reads: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Within each of us is the knowledge that God has a plan for our lives and a purpose for our living and so we constantly strive, subconsciously, to live out that purpose.
When we stop to consider whether or not we’re doing that, we may have a crisis of identity or plan a major life change. We question the decisions we’ve made, the work we do, the parent or child we’ve been, the friends we have, everything comes into the realm of reflection. There are only a few possible outcomes, 1) we decide we are doing well and can continue to live as we are, 2) we decide we aren’t doing what we’d like to do, but we’re content enough to continue to live as we are, or 3) we need to make some major changes to live the life and achieve the goals we know we can.
When I graduated from seminary, more than half of my class was beyond the young adult years. More and more people are going back to school as adults to earn a degree they never started or never finished or retraining for new jobs. In this modern age, we have more opportunities and more flexibility to have a fresh start when we find that we want more out of life and we go for it.
The cross was no mid-life crisis for Jesus. It was an end-of-life time of reflection. On the cross, in His last breath, He uttered the words, “It is finished.” Wouldn’t we all like to come to the end of our life and say, we have fulfilled our calling, we have completed our work, it is finished.
In the final moments of life, we don’t care if we kept a clean house or had perfect kids or count our worth by the balance of our bank account. What matters is, was I a good parent, did I fulfill my calling, did I live a good life.
I can’t help but think of Frank Sinatra’s song, My Way.
And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I’ll say it clear,
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.
I’ve lived a life that’s ful.
I’ve traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than his,
I did it my way.
Regrets, I’ve had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, where there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.
I’ve love, I’ve laughed and cried.
I’ve had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.
To think I did all that;
And may I say – not in a shy way,
Oh no, Oh no not me,
I did it my way.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows –
And did it my way!
Yes, it was my way!
I think what Frank was saying was living life to the fullest is to do so on your own terms, not as someone else, but as your own person fulfilling your own calling, living out God’s purpose for you.
Now, I doubt that Jesus hanging on the cross would have sung Frank’s song. I doubt He was doing what He had planned for His life. But, in His final words, He could say, I’ve lived the life I was called to live. It is finished!
So, what was ‘it’?
Throughout the Gospel of John, we are told what ‘it’ is. We know what work Jesus came to accomplish.
1) Jesus came to give us eternal life. John 6:38 – 40 says: “For I have come down from Heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life and I will raise them up at the last day.”
2) Jesus came to give us abundant life. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
3) Jesus came to reveal God to us. John 12: 45 – 46 says, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me.”
4) Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Matthew 5: 17 says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
5) Jesus came to bear witness to the Truth. John 1: 14, 17 say, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. And, John 18: 37 says, “… In fact, the reason I was born and came into this world is to testify to the truth.”
And, for all He tried to do, He was misunderstood. Everyone believed the Messiah would come as a new King of Israel to take the throne of King David and restore the nation of Israel. He hung on the cross with the sign above His head, “This is the King of the Jews.” That sign was telling of what many misunderstood about Him, but He could still say, “It is finished.”