Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet‚Ä¶ (John 13:3-5 NASB)
The largest fear in life is of “the unknown.” And the largest port-of-entry to the unknown is death.
However, all through our lives, we continuously deal with “micro deaths” — fear of the unknown in many different and smaller scenarios: going off to school for the first time, interacting with the opposite sex, winning a job, losing a job, getting married, becoming parents, enduring childhood illnesses and accidents, hearing bad news from the doctor, etc.
Each of those situations may appear as a long drop down an elevator shaft. But, that is an illusion, birthed by the larger fear of the unknown. And, here is one of life’s secrets: each of those fear-inducing dramas is actually the doorway to a larger and better place.
For example, in the womb, we enjoyed a perfect, climate-controlled and well-nourished zone of maternal comfort. Then, all of that rejected us. The walls started closing in and we were nearly squeezed to death in the birth canal. Had we been wired for language at that moment, we would have surely cried out in fear of the great unknown.
Then, in an explosion of blood and water, we burst into the infinitely larger place of “real life.” Ah, so this is my destiny! Mother’s warm nourishment, a family to cater to every possible need and desire, and the emerging sights and sounds that were unknown in the old, dark and very cramped world.
However, after a few short years in this cocoon, Mom and Dad kicked us out of the nest and sent us to school. There we discovered reading, social interaction (girls! boys!) and playground skills and thrills. We could never go back to the way it was; our destiny had taken us beyond the small borders of infancy.
That process continues, of course, on through the various levels of education, courtship, career, family. We keep filling up spaces, being rejected by them and bursting into new realms.
Finally, we come to the end of life on this earth. We have simply outgrown the suffocating constrictions of earthbound life. Of course, our fear of the unknown tries to delay the journey. We want to stay in our earth-womb.
But, no. Just as when we once filled up our mother’s womb, our environment is kicking us out . . . again. And, the larger life awaits us.
The disbelief and despair which permeate our culture increases our fear of the unknown. If we listen to those voices, we quickly visualize a continuous decline into being discarded by life.
But, the biblical pattern is exactly the opposite! It reveals a continuous upward and expanding life. Even while our physical bodies wear out, our real self is being continuously renewed (2 Corinthians 4:16).
However, as Christ’s pattern confirms, the road to abounding life runs through suffering and humility. Jesus emptied Himself of His own rights, took on the role and form of a servant, and submitted to the indignity of death on a cross.
Incredibly, Jesus did not try to prolong His life on earth. He apparently didn’t need to make a great speech marking His transition. You simply do not see Jesus making sure that everyone understood His mission or the truth of His identity. He did not even try to project great drama on His pending death. Instead, you see One who was so confident in the heavenly purpose that He could silently and quite unceremoniously begin washing the feet of His disciples.
What a great example of a graceful exit!
I can think of no greater pattern or encouragement for those in midlife. The abounding life continues. It started in heaven, came here for a while and ascends right on into a glorious future.
We don’t “peak” at a young age and then sink further and further into nothingness. Our life just keeps abounding — through humility and suffering — and expanding into ever increasing larger places.
Living a full life throughout our midlife years is best attained through life in Christ. His own pattern — living beyond the illusions of fleshly indulgence and self-promotion – is the best pathway. Listen to Him. Let His words fall into your heart and take on life of their own. If you do that, you’ll always find that age is not a disqualifier.
Because of the power of God’s word, Abraham and Sarah found possibilities which were far “north of expected.” You can too.