I have already pointed out that my mid-thirties feels like a transitional period. Here is one more attempt to describe why.
From Duty to Devotion and Desire
For some people, this 30’s to 40’s phase marks a transition from a life of vague belief to a life of taking action on those beliefs. You know, deciding that instead of just sitting in church for a couple hours per week maybe they should put their faith into action in every element of their life. This may be you. The Bible says that faith without works is dead, and it is time to get to work! Time to stop living as a prodigal son and come back home.
But for me, I have been acting dutifully for a long time. And that is the key word: Duty. A slave serves dutifully. A son is different. A son works hard, but he works from a different motivation. A son loves his father. A son is in on the big picture…knows the plan. Living and working like a son is less selfish in some ways, because the service is out of love and devotion to his dad. But it is more rewarding too, because the son gets a share of the kingdom. We are actually working for ourselves, in a paradoxical way. It is refreshing to know that we aren’t simply martyrs, laying down our lives like sheep. We are important leaders and co-heirs in this great Kingdom. Let’s not get out of balance; duty is the place where we are to begin. Duty is good. But if we do not mature beyond duty our hearts will be stunted.
I have noticed it in my prayer life. One of my rote prayers I pray frequently is “Lord, help me to serve you today with my whole heart.” And that is a good thing. But now I pray, “Lord, help me to love you and serve You today with my whole heart.” I have been devouring The Sacred Romance, by John Eldredge. I’ve been reading and enjoying the Psalms in all of David’s emo mushiness. I’m digging into what it means to love God the Father and be loved by Him as a son. (If you have good resources or can describe it for me, please leave a comment below or message me!) As Bob Buford said in his book, “Halftime is the perfect opportunity to shift from trying to understand God to learning to know Him.”
I’ve also felt the pull in my marriage. I don’t want to just serve Dana because it’s ‘the right thing to do.’ (And vice versa.) I want the passion back that we had in our honeymoon years. I need my marriage to move from duty to desire.
Last, I’ve felt this shift in my career as well. I have less internal pressure now to make the career move “I ought to make,” and less satisfaction with simply making progress or succeeding. I am starting to feel the beginnings of the question: “What do I actually want to be doing?” In other words, desire.
This Is THE Defining Question!
Have you lived the last decade or two as the dutiful son, more or less a slave in your own Father’s house? Or as a prodigal, knowing who you are but not acting like it? This is the time in our life where we evaluate our current status and make the necessary changes. Be careful guys – this is a crucial transition to make! The path of duty starts out beautiful, but it ends up ugly. Passionate young Jews turned into wizened old Pharisees because they never made this transition. We would be wise to learn from their mistakes. Do not spend the rest of your married life, spiritual life, and work life locked into the dutiful drudgery of a slave. Continue to do what is right, but do it from a heart of devotion and desire.
I’m interested – what advice do you have for me? What resources can help me with this journey?
OPL: Mid-Life 1 – Allies and Answers
OPL: Mid-Life 2- X Marks the Spot
OPL: Mid-Life 4 – Tower of Babel or Excavation
OPL: Mid-Life 5 – Weary Warrior
OPL: Mid-Life 6 – Pleasure
OPL: Mid-Life 7 – You Need Nathan
OPL: Mid-Life 8 – Shame, Validation, and Identity
OPL: Mid-Life 9 – Halftime
Bob Buford’s Halftime