Mid-Life...Between your Dreams and Reality

“A dream is imagination coupled with desire projected into the future.” Paul David Tripp

“We are creatures of dreams”, says Paul David Tripp,“ whether they might be realistic and out of reach or not… We all carry a vision in our heart…Maybe it isn’t clear at the present time, but it is indeed very much alive and waiting for you to discover. This vision carries us through life and motivates us.”

Broken dreams…Some of them have taken a great deal of your time and effort to become reality… many efforts maybe at the cost of stolen time taken away from our love-ones, maybe at the cost of many other important interests of life.

It could be the dream of a successful career or a business that has stolen a great portion of your identity as an individual. You wake up one morning…questioning who you are, as this part of your life is now history …the children are gone, you’re closer to retirement…the communication between you and your spouse is on hold because the children took so much of your time and attention; you feel like two strangers in courtship again…with nothing much to say to each other…

You question the outcome of your life …is this a dream or is it my reality…maybe both… to remind me that my transition calls me to continue the journey trusting and hopeful no matter the circumstances. Whether you feel young and energetic or you feel like every part of your body is aching or falling apart…you’re reaching the crossroad and you don’t know what life holds for you…it’s never too late to dream…it’s never too late to live.

1.When dream(s) (having been realized or not) takes over your life.

Our dreams, like anything else, can become an intruder, a form of evasion or even an illusion if unrealistic. As a personal example, I’ve dreamed of earning a living as a musician or a music teacher. For as much as I love to sing, I fully understand that this project of life is now a dream – that could have been realized having had the confidence and support of my family and the self-confidence – but now, I know that this is a dream of the past that has very little chance to come true, so for me, to continue to hope for something in this field is an illusion…it would be like planning my life with a million dollar cheque I’ve never won.

Some of them, on the contrary, might have taken a great deal of our time and effort to come true. Having reached mid-life, you look back - accounting the fruits of your efforts - and you question whether it was either the right choice, whether it was worth the high cost of perhaps so many family relationships issues; in other words, this /these dreams have ruled your life completely.

You’ve turned all the pride and effort and gave yourself the full credit, yet you forget that the Author of all things was behind supporting you. (We must remember that nothing is possible without the gift of his loving grace!)

2. Use your gift of imagination wisely

“A dream is imagination coupled with desire and projected into the future.” How does it work? Paul David Tripp illustrates this very well in his book: Lost in the Middle – MidLife and the Grace of God when he describes this most humanly precious gift and I quote:

“This ability to imagine is wonderful, mysterious, practical, holy, mundane, and amazing. Whether listening to someone describe a place you have not been to, or reading a novel and imagining what each character looks like…it is a particularly significant for believers because we accept the fact that there is a God who really does exist, who cannot been seen, touched or heard…”

But like any other gifts, if we don’t use it wisely, it can turn against us… “…there can be so many unworthy things that can capture our imagination and thus misdirect our lives. This fact should not be overlooked.”

Paul David Tripp describes this beautifully and I quote:

“What exactly is a dream... for example, I want to be comfortable, so I dream that someday I will be very successful in business and will purchase luxurious house in an elite community. I play and replay the video of a succession of promotions and of exactly what that house and that community would look like. The more I replay my dream, the more detailed it gets and the more it has control of me. Each day that I work, I am a person in pursuit of a dream. Before long the dream is not just a faint and distant hope for the future. It becomes a prized possession. I become convinced that life without that dream would be unthinkable and unlivable.. My sense of identity, purpose, well-being, contentment, and satisfaction becomes directly connected to the realization of the dream. My imagination ha been captured and is now controlled by some aspect of the creation. It was never meant to be that way. Al other dreams were meant to be subservient to God’s dream. Yet in the pursuit of my essential dream, I have been slowly building my own personal tower to my own personal heaven. It has me. It motivates me. It guides and directs me…

3. Learn from your disappointments

You’ve build your own Tower of Babel (Gn 11 3-5) – your own personal heaven without Him, and you’ve replaced the glory attributed to Him and attributed it to yourself. Because, He knows what makes humanity happy. He will allow you to face hurt and disappointments, as a wake-up call, and He will help you to understand and to learn that the purpose of your whole life consists in realizing the dream of God for you.

Dreams die and disappoint because we live in a world in competition against the dream world. We deal with a world of cheaters, of hatred, of jealousy and envy. People don’t want us to succeed…competition…and many, many more resistances interfere in the accomplishment of our dreams. Our world is a broken place and people step on one another to destroy anyone with success.

Your dream ends up capturing you. I quote Tripp when he says,

“Yesterday’s dream becomes today’s demand. Today’s demand morphs into tomorrow’s needs. What once got my attention has now become the thing that I cannot live without. Remember this dream principle: the dream for a good thing becomes a bad thing when that dream becomes a ruling thing. This is the danger of our dreams.”

“A dream does not fulfill you; it never did and it never will. It doesn’t give you an identity nor an emotional security” says Tripp. “It won’t give you this sense of meaning and purpose that you are actually seeking to get.

How many people have fulfilled their dreams, only to feel empty, hungry, and lost once more?” This makes us feel envious, bitter, doubtful, in denial, or wanting to bargain with God. With no intention of elaborating, what do I do with my broken dreams?

You are called to build a world of peace, of love and of harmony around you; you are called to live in happiness. Our dreams must be in harmony with His’ and be surrendered within God’s hands. Any projects He cannot share with you will lead to unhappiness and disappointment. He knows you more than you will never know yourself, so why not entrust your future in His loving hands. Instead of asking yourself the question: “What do I want to do, or to have, you must ask yourself: “What does God have for me in regards to:

1. My family?

2. My life?

3. My work?

4. My social life…

A person that doesn’t nourish any dreams is not a lively person…but a wonderer in life. I would like to present this book from Amy Twain entitled:101 ways to your dream life – Goal Setting Tips for your success. To obtain a copy of this book you can download from the following website link also added on my mid-life low-self esteem webpage:

Mid-life a time of assessment...

“If during mid-life all you had to do was to acknowledge your failures, let go some of your dreams or accept that you were getting older, this period of time would not be so difficult.” The challenges are related to problems of the heart. We will discuss more about this in our mid-life-interpersonal-related-issues.

I wish to introduce this last but no least popular concern we can be journeying into during this transitional phase of our life: the existential crisis.

You might sense your professional life or your interpersonal relationships up to par...things are going well or as you expect them to be, yet, you feel your life to be under anesthestic, some kind of a numbness that could be exopressed under indifference, boredom, nonchalence; you might be carying nostalgia or apathy; you might also be under the impression that whatever you do or say no longer makes a difference anymore; you feel like whether you live or you die, wouldn't make a difference to anyone... You feel like you’re a number more than a unique individual.

The worse thing about this is that you’re not sure why you feel this way. In other words your life is meaningless and you carry this inner spiritual weight like a wanderer in this world.

If this is your situation, there are two important messages you must learn from this experience and I quote Dr Phil in his book: «Real Life- Preparing for the 7 most Challenging Days of your Life»:

....Everyone needs to know they matter, and you are no exception. Everyone needs to feel that they are part of something and to have a strong sense of belonging.”

You haven’t chosen to enter this life. You haven't chosen your upbringing situation of life, your present life situation but again you can choose how you live your life.

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl once said: "you can and should chose to find meaning even in suffering; without meaning your pain becomes a penalty. Rediscover your passions, what brings you joy and gratification.

The mid-life harvest:

This concern awakes in us a few realities:

1. There`s more to life than everything we have been craving or anything we have been doing. We have attributed so much value about things that we now learn to be superficial and poor.

2. Our struggles reminds us that we are migrating in this finite or limited world and the here-and-now we journey into, sometimes makes us feel like walking in a desert or a storm. We need to journey deeper inward and to pay more attention to the transcendental view of life. We should consider a spiritual approach of life that gives us a much broader perspective of life – the one beyond the earthly life – the life in eternity.

3.We need to turn to Someone in our struggles; someone who understands us for being the Author of all things and of our existence, for having had shared our human condition through life and death, and re-established the broken relationship attributed by the universal malady

Reaching the spiritual crossroad...

Mid-life is also a spiritual transition, we’ve mentioned this before... we journey at different levels. Some are at the beginning of the race, some in the transitional phase...But, no matter where you are situated, “There are people in mid-life who quit fighting the fight of faith. They let doubt and bitterness seep into their hearts and begin to eat away at love and worship. They give into the cancer of envy and get paralysed by what could have been.”

Our source of hope in this transitional phase of life is to believe in time and in counter time:

That God is in control and in charge of your situation. We live in a world that doesn`t belong to us...with people that doesn`t belong to us. You don`t even own your life ...remember, Christ purchased you at a price... the shedding of his own flesh and blood. No gods of either Roman or Greek mythology has ever done that! In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul confirms this: “Do you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

The greatest disappointment we experiment during mid-life is more than often one with God. The inner spiritual battleship is expressed under one or more of these attitudes as a reaction to our struggles: (from the book Lost in the Middle – MidLife and the Grace of God) and summarized:

1. A feeling of hopelessness. (What a difference does it make; it doesn`t work view of life) You struggle directly or indirectly with the One who hold all life circumstances.

2. Disappointed, you will journey in a desert...feeling a lack of enthusiasm and a lack of zeal for the things of God. You will even let go godly habits.

3. Like any situations of loss, you feel the pain and you`re in anger against people around you and parti- cularly to God for allowing obstacles to interfere in your plans of life.

4. You crave for control and for power.

5. You sense a paradox between the messages of the teaching in the Scripture and you begin to doubt them and to question them. You want to back away from your values and beliefs. In this case, you let life interpret your theology.

6. Your emotions begin to run your life...become greater than the circumstances, the source of the anger is more than your circumstances...you carry anger with God... You begin to question His love and His wisdom. Your gratitude decreases and for many earthly interests will take over.

Why does some people believe in God`s power and willingness to intervene in our lives, and even say that He did as for others don`t?

Jonathan Morris, in his book “The Promise – God`s Purpose and Plan for When Life Hurts and I quote: « You want Him to desperately achieve your objective, your way and when you don’t get an instant response “God machine" is broken. We press the buttons harder, just in case, hit the coin machine to get your money back...”Hello...I`m praying why are you not there?

Have you ever thought for a moment, that you are treating God as a vending machine? Would you like to be treated this way? How hurting when people call you or become nice with you because they expect something from you and once granted, you are ignored or taken for granted again. Have you thought for one second that he holds your living- existence (past, present and future) in his loving hands and if for one second He chose to ignore you, you would disappear from the face of this earth? Your heart beats, your lung breathes, your kidneys filter because it`s his loving will upon you for now. This also applies for all creation.

We need to look over the images and perceptions we make of God and ask ourselves if the God I am worshiping is the real God or a god of modern mythology. Some other images presented by Jonathan Morris may be striking. If these are your perceptions of God, you have been knocking at the wrong door because God isn’t there because that God doesn’t exist:

a) God the clockmaker!

The attitude we develop is the one of acknowledgement towards the Author of life and of all creation; he sets things in motion and leaves us to our own fate.”

b) God is not a buffet!

My God is like this...and my God is like that...the computer age personalized life choices. We take Buddhist meditation and add some new age beliefs, some Hindu mysticism but no moral please!

c)God is not a cop!

You better be perfect or else...! When bad things happen, he`s mad! We blame him for broken relationships, earthquakes and hurricanes...God is the cause of our suffering!

d)God is not a life insurance

Being religious will be for later on in life...right now I want to enjoy earthly pleasures. I will look for other meanings to my life and come back to God when and if I’m still searching after trying everything else.

Often we hear this comment: “I am spiritual but not religious.” What does a person mean by this? I quote Jonathan Morris “We are all spiritual by nature – we all look up to transcendence. Being religious is our response (social) to that gift of spirituality. This expression clearly states that you intentionally to do nothing about your gift of spirituality.”

“These images describe a god that is capricious. I understand any kind of reluctance in worshiping such a God”, says Jonathan Morris, S.J. “You need to learn about God himself, who has revealed Himself to be.

The Bible teaches us about mid-life not as much in describing the transition itself but in presenting us real situations and real people in a psycho-spiritual journey discovering, through live experiences, who the real God is and how they can glorify Him in their everyday life situations. Because, no one is an island, our communities of worship help us to grow together – learning together in good and difficult times.

I would like to conclude with a word about our suffering and how to journey through it with resilience and serenity.

We need to understand that no matter the kind of suffering – whether physical, emotional or spiritual, God all compassionate and merciful is always with us and journeys with us. Remember, He is with you as a Spirit...in a sense He`s much more closer to you than you are to yourself as a human being. You pain is not a will of the All Mighty...We must get this out of our head! Remember Christ in the garden of Gethsemane... “In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me...”

Why doesn’t God remove my pain?

God sees the big picture...The past, the present and the future is before his eyes...He sees the outcome and how we grow from this experience... “...unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24 “God`s ultimate goal for your life on earth is not comfort, but character development.” Rick Warren explains this, his own way in his book: “The Purpose Driven Life – What on Earth am I Here for?” and I quote: “God has a purpose behind every problem. He uses circumstances to develop our character. In fact, he depends more on circumstances to make us like Jesus than he depends on our reading the Bible. The reason is obvious: You face circumstances twenty-four hours a day... No one is immune to pain or insulated from suffering, and no one gets to skate through life problem-free. Life is a series of problems. Peter assures us that problems are normal and says: “Don’t be bewildered or surprised when you go through the fiery trials ahead, for this is no strange, unusual thing that is going to happen to you.”

Contemplate the elements of nature and its cycle of life and resurrection to inspire you about this mystery of life. In spring natures blooms and in winter nature is bare...Contemplate autumn in its beauty and abundance...than the cold weather comes and everything seems dead... We are part of this creation and undergoing our seasonal transitions – like the caterpillar in the chrysalis in full transformation into becoming a beautiful butterfly.

Mid-life...more than a time of assessment...it’s now a time of commitment.

The Sources:

Lost in the Middle – MidLife and the Grace of God by Paul David Tripp, Copyright 2004 Shepherd Press PO Box 24 Wapwallopen,PA 18660

Holy Bible – The New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition Catholic Bible Press – a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers Copyright 1993

Dear Heart Come Home – The Path of Midlife Spirituality by Joyce Rupp The Crossroad Publishing Company 16 Penn Plaza,481 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10001 Copyright 2006

Real Life – Preparing the 7 most Challenging Days of Your Life by Dr. Phil McGraw Free Press A Division of Simon & Shuster, Inc.1230 avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020 Copyright 2008

Why Faith Matters by David J. Wolpe HarperCollins Publishers 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY, 10022 Copyright 2008

The Promise – God’s Purpose and Plan for When Life Hurts by Father Jonathan Morris, HarperCollins Publishers 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY, 10022 Copyright 2008

The Purpose Driven Life – What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren Zondervan, Copyright 2002

Praying our Goodbyes – A Spiritual Companion through Life’s Losses and Sorrows by Joyce Rupp Ave Maria press Notre dame, Indiana, Inc., P.O.

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"Enlighten your journey of life particularly in this transitional phase of mid-life where life is not easy.