Midlife Transitioning

Recently I read an article about Midlife Transition and Embracing Your “Second Adulthood.” In it, author Holly Schut claimed that my generation has postponed its midlife crisis from age 40 to age 50. A generation ago, when it happened at 40, the crisis was about recognizing that “you only had so many years left to achieve what you had set out to accomplish in your career, family, ministry, and so forth.” Today, however, the crisis seems to be linked with events rather than realizations. Schut lists “the empty nest, the aging parents, onset of menopause, adjustments in health, etc.” However, whether it happens with 40 or 50, midlife is not an easy thing to go through. Despite Schut’s euphemisms (“midlife transition,” “adjustments in health”), most of us will perceive as negative the phenomena she describes.

But was it intended that way? Did God add midlife into the mix of his creating modern people, so that they would have something else to grapple with? Or is our negative perception of midlife the result of our doing?

Let’s scale back here a bit and look at midlife, not in terms of human biography, but the midlife of just one year, the year 2009, and let’s focus on the life of our church in 2009 in particular. During the first half of this year, we returned from a wonderful church retreat to Turkey, continued to integrate nine new church members, and were awarded a preservation grant of $487,797. We have also enjoyed the work of Ben Berman, our energetic new organist and choir director (Buxtehude cantata!). And we celebrated the first anniversary of House of Manna, the family feeding program we designed in conjunction with Elijah’s Promise.

At the same time, the markets have depleted our funds significantly. This summer, we find ourselves in the middle of a discussion regarding the feasibility of our personnel situation, as well as our preservation project. At times, this feels like midlife hitting reality.

Obviously, we cannot ignore the changes in our fiscal situation. It is, however, imperative that we respond to these changes with Christian faith and not only with the tools the rest of our culture offers. How anxiety-driven will our response be, and will it reflect our trust in God’s guiding hand? To what degree do we elevate money into the rank of our motifs and will we allow other motifs as well? Will the new concerns throw us into a mode of focusing primarily on us, and our well being, or will we be able to solve our problems without losing focus on the world, which we are called to serve?

It seems to me that this summer of 2009 provides us with a challenging opportunity of appropriating the joy of the new life in Jesus Christ, of which many of our liturgies speak so eloquently. We may as well start this process by harvesting inwardly the wealth of produce yielded during the first six months of 2009. It’s a good way of softening the onslaught of midlife that we experience these days.

With warm wishes for a good summer,
Your pastor, Hartmut

About Rev. Dr. Hartmut Kramer-Mills

Hartmut Kramer-Mills, a native of Jena, Germany, began his theological education at Heidelberg University. After the Middle Exam in 1986 he received a scholarship from the World Alliance of Reformed Churches for McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He graduated from McCormick with a Master of Divinity in 1988. He graduated from Marburg University in Germany with the Ecclesiastical Exam in 1990, and received a Dr. theol. from Greifswald University, Germany, in 1997. From 1990 to 1991 he was vicar at St. Wenzel in Naumburg, Germany. He was ordained minister of word and sacrament in 1993 through the Protestant Church of the Church Province of Saxony. From 1993 to 1998 he served as assistant pastor in Stoessen, Goerschen, and Rathewitz, Germany. At the same time he was lecturer for Church History at Erfurt College in Germany. From 1999 to 2000 he served the Spotswood Reformed Church in New Jersey as interim pastor. Since 2000 he and his wife serve the First Reformed Church in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as co-pastors.
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