Monday, March 14, 2011

Midlife Fears

[God] has broken my strength in midcourse; he has shortened my days. “Oh my God,” I say, “Do not take me away at the mid-point of my life, you whose years endure throughout all generations.”
Psalm 102: 23, 24.

            In the United States, people are living longer. It’s no longer uncommon for people to reach their nineties, or even live to a hundred. Most cancers appear after one turns fifty, after decades of abuse in one form or another. My symptoms of ovarian cancer first presented the morning before I turned 55; my gynecologic oncologist said the tumor, based on its size, had likely been growing for about five years.
            As baby boomers age, “midlife” has become a floating number. We proclaim, “Sixty is the new forty,” and other nonsense. Whatever miracles we can work on our faces or bodies by applying expensive creams and keeping fit, the individual cells and organs know the truth of midlife.
            Despite our best anti-aging efforts, however, there are no guarantees. Like the psalmist, we may plead not to face the end when we thought we had another half of a lifetime. I felt cheated when I was diagnosed just after my first book had been published and my professional life was humming along smoothly. I had so much more to say!
            The funny thing is that cancer gave me a whole lot more to say, and technology, which I’ve always resisted, has given me a forum at last to share what I’ve written. In one of our Wednesday healing service prayers, we thank God for the “hidden blessings.” A new subject matter is one of my hidden blessings from dealing with cancer. In fact, there are multiple hidden blessings: kind and competent medical professionals, a sense of my own mortality that brings a new perspective on “the small stuff,” and new avenues for ministry.
            Make no mistake: I hate having cancer. I do not regard it as my friend or as my great teacher. Having cancer at what I’d like to think of as mid-point isn’t the blessing, but the catalyst for attaining the blessings.
We are not God; our years do not endure throughout all generations. Sooner or later, our years will end. We cannot know what our midcourse age is. We can only be thankful for and wisely invest each new day.

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