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Onward we grow

Welcome to midlife, a key, developmental stage where we set the trajectory for the rest of our lives! You probably didn’t expect to be going through a developmental stage at this point in life, did you? Nobody warned me, either!

In today’s post we will continue our discussion about why the empty nest and midlife transition seems so challenging and how we can view it instead as a period of positive personal growth. Are you ready to look at midlife from a hopeful, empowering angle? Onward we grow . . .

What makes midlife—including the emptying nest—a developmental stage, you ask? It turns out that we can look at life as a continuous upward trajectory of development, an idea first suggested by Danish psychoanalyst and researcher Erik Erikson in the mid-1900s. We can—and should—disregard the “over-the-hill” viewpoint of midlife onward and see ourselves instead as people in a continued state of growth toward who God made us to be.

While development happens throughout the life course, midlife is a key and unique stage of heightened growth that requires us to navigate some unique challenges we typically don’t experience at other life stages. Here’s a few examples: our kids are growing up and out of the nest, our parents are growing older and more frail, we start to think about and plan for our own retirement, and we ourselves may be experiencing menopause or the onset of chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular conditions. These challenges often seem to strike all at once at midlife, requiring us to muster all our personal reserves to meet them. And when we do, we grow in wisdom and in confidence.

We are also challenged to grow at midlife when we realize that we have less life ahead of us than we have behind us. Our time horizon is shortening, or as one friend puts it, “There’s more road in the rearview mirror than there is in the windshield.” One result of this is that we become aware of the diminishing number of decision points ahead and the increasing number of decision points in the past which we might change if we could go back.

All of our decisions have made us who we are at this midlife point, so if we want to make some changes and continue to grow as people, we feel pressure to make the right choices going forward. Thus, midlife is a time to evaluate ourselves, our goals, and our practices in order to make the most out the rest of life. The good news is that evaluation pays off with rising levels of happiness and satisfaction as we age—the best is yet to come if we do the developmental work of midlife.

The ideal result of midlife development is that we enter old age (roughly late 60s and on, according to Erikson) with wisdom, integrity, resilience, peace, and gratitude for our own life story.

This is exactly what I wanted in my old age, so I started researching how to successfully navigate midlife development. Here is what I found: As a person of faith, I need to start with God. Specifically, I need to ask myself some serious questions about what I believe about God and if I am committed to living out those beliefs, even in the uncertainty of midlife.

We must live our theology. That is the starting point for growth in the life of the Christian: our beliefs must match our lives.

Think about that this week, my friend, and pray about it, too. Ask God to give you the personal wholeness that comes when our principles match our practice. Below is a downloadable journaling page with some questions to help you think about your current faith walk. Hope you find it helpful on this journey. Let’s keep growing!

Living Faith Journaling Pages
Download • 991KB


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