7 Feb 2018

Soul Shudders: is it growing older or something else?

No one ever told me that as you grow older, things can get so much more complicated, and harder.

Yvette DePaepe, Autumn Weather Mood
As a youth, all the adults looked to me like they got it together. Or if they did not, my youthful invincibility told me I won't turn out like them.

My marriage will burst with love
My career will be brilliant
My children will bust the limits

We may not ever say it to another soul, but we sure hope for it.

Sol Marrades, Autumn Sunday

It's easy for adults to hide from our dreams as they shatter one by one. We amuse and distract ourselves with entertainment of pretty food, the thrill of bargain or the pleasure of the vacay-escape.

It's easy for adults to be too busy to check in with our souls where the dreams began as smaller lights to point to The Light. So we feel this persistent shadow over us and we cannot be sure of our own shape and purpose.

It is easy for adults to scoff at the naivete, saying we have things to do, datelines to meet, and some times we avoid the younger uns because they remind us too much of it all, contributing to the 'generation gap'.

Sure, there are those folks who are lucky, crazy, out-there enough to pursue what they want, and some of them do it in ways that leave us perplexed. They quit and travel. They bid adieu to their marriages. They botox their faces and contribute to a billion dollar industry of denial.

My marriage is not bursting with love. We keep getting our signals confused and cannot decide if we want to do this Valentine's Day thing. My career, if there is even one, is undefined. My conviction led me to choose raising family first and now seventeen years later, I understand what re-entry feels like: awful, even though I managed to write a snazzy LinkedIn profile.  The children? That's a book-worthy story all its own.

I was so excited to be twenty.
Turning thirty felt powerful.
Forty was great too with a sense of convergence.
But fifty-ish.

The trajectory of the life of faith, I like to teach, is upward, with smaller dips throughout. I still believe that is true because God is just ahead, and beside and within me. But the 'feels' don't agree.

I tire more easily.
No thanks to menopause, the little hormones are enjoying their display of disproportionate influence.
My soul seems more sensitive to emotional temperature changes. In other words, I find myself a little more volatile, which I don't like.

Physical stamina and well-being can be strengthened, and that is the plan with my exercise and diet.
Menopause has to be accepted and everyone duly warned. Taking more soy also seems to help.

But - what's up soul?

You are supposed to be huge and strong. Look at all the good food you have been fed. You have weathered much. You are taken care of. So, why these shudders? Surely you are not afraid?

I now see that growing older makes one both stronger and weaker.

We grow stronger because we have braved the inevitable storms of life, and if we have processed them well, we have grown muscles of grace and truth.

The obvious weakness is physical. But because we are an integrated being, sometimes that weakness, including for women, emotional weakness from hormonal circus-play, can wire into our souls.It's not as easy to hold steady at the helm. The weakness is more apparent than the strength when getting out of bed is a small feat with those noisy joints.

The conclusion we arrive at mostly is to pare down, step back, do less.

Perhaps not.

If we are not careful, this could lead to a huge waste of all of our hard-won battles.

Street wisdom says work hard, then enjoy. Even the Christian buys into this. We look forward to a life of retirement and ease. Blessed are those with the means to stay healthy, travel and serve at leisure is the attitude.

Entire battalions of capable warriors and even generals are lost. We don't want to appear as old fools who are still hamming on about dreams of a better way. We don't want to helm anything because it's time to relax and let the younger ones have a go.

I want to issue a call to my soul and yours (especially if it is also a fifty-ish one) to step out into the Light. Be Unafraid. Brace yourself. Believe in those dreams.

Sol Marrades, Spring Moon

Not to be the twenty-something you once were.
But the fifty-something you now are. 

You see, there is a reason why our dreams did not happen that we have to muster the courage to face: we went about it all wrong.

Before you argue or retreat in dread, listen to this too: we will get it wrong. In our youthful zeal, with our baggage from our families of origins, in our performance-oriented culture, we think dreams are baked in an oven: get the formula, follow it to a tee, knead it and bake it and mark it with a D for done.

Our dreams, worth dreaming, are way beyond us. They are longings that point us to a vast hinterland we have not visited, a way of living we are not familiar with, a Kingdom, a Narnia.

Niklas Gustafsson, Duality

This is what it means to step out into the Light. Get out from that stuffy *wardrobe filled with old stuff and breathe an air so crisp it thrills the senses. Get down on your knees and ask forgiveness for messing up and get up to dream and reign.

Where to dream and reign you may ask?

Adam and Eve had their garden of Eden (ok they botched it).
You and I have our own gardens to tend to. Our homes, our jobs, our ministry are the contexts for dreams.

God never told A&E (sounds about right, haha) to do a job to prove they have what it takes and then He will come check in on their performance later. No, God walked with them in the cool of the day. How cool! You and I can look to God to talk with us, hear our cries, bear the sorrows of our losses and longings. Our every step is the shaping of dreams. The shattered pieces become mosaic that is the potential of a new design and pattern emerging.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me. ~ Psalm 16

I remind my shuddering soul. Yes, you feel the weakness. But don't forget the strength. Strength that comes from faith muscles used in repeat interval training. But more than that, as these words of the Psalm tell us:

The substance of the soul is a Person. It is not ideas, experiences, spiritual gifts. It is the encounter, the experience, and the intimacy of The LORD that defines us as Christians. God provides, maintains and sustains our identity and is our security.

It is a relationship that is lived out in our earthly, daily, often ho-hum existence where we find "lines". the limits and liabilities of our lives, our choices and our decisions. I admit that growing older, I have fought harder against those lines. But when I pull back and accept that they are the boundaries that both keep me in and keep stuff out, and that God wants to enjoy my little puny life in this small space, I have to say it is a delightful inheritance. Amazing Marvel of Marvels that God would find it cool to be part of my shuddering existence!

I have been pulling out all my dreams and talking them over with God. I am waiting for fresh eyes to see because I know that in my dreaming and working all crazy hard, I have many times worked myself and others into a tight space and not a garden.

I am talking with God about dreams that seem to be taking on new forms as I remember that God is the Dream Giver and the One that fulfills them.

I am making notes of dreams being resurrected and I have no idea how to proceed.

You may find yourself growing weaker.
Maybe your are grieving some dreams that now seem impossible.
Or things are so 'abnormal' you don't even think you are entitled to dream.

Step out into the Light. Lay hold of the Substance of your soul. Join me, let's grow stronger from the soul out, to dream and reign like we were meant to.

*from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis