Midlife crisis of faith

This July, I will turn 40 years old.

You can't see it, but I paused after I typed that sentence. Sat with it for a while. Observed the letters on the screen, the words they formed, the milestone they represent. I've watched this date approach on the calendar since sometime over the winter and now, in the muggy heat of summer, the long daylight of solstice, the undeniable march of the seasons, I acknowledge: It is upon me.

Let me be clear, I am not upset about turning 40. I'm more ... disbelieving. Despite my spouse and children and book and degrees and jobs, I can't compute that it took actual years to get here. In my mind I am 25 and newly arrived in DC, the current details of my life as yet a hazy dream. I am grateful to be turning 40, grateful to be celebrating in health and joy. I just am also questioning whether time is a construct meant to confuse and deceive me.

Ah, there's that word that pops up so often for me these days—questioning. (And not only because I wrote a book about questions.) As I grow older and more fully grasp the world's realities, I find myself more susceptible to disillusionment and cynicism, less trusting and hopeful. Not all the time, mind you, but often enough that I sometimes teeter on the edge of despair, which is not a comfortable or desired place for someone who wants to profess a belief in a universe driven by Mystery and Love.

I thought I would be braver by now. More convicted. More confident in my values and decisions. Instead the ground beneath me gets a little looser every year, the pebbles falling away with innocuous plinks until suddenly my feet are pointed down a slope. Three questions in particular keep running through my mind:

How do I nurture hope when the world seems to be burning down around me?

I've ruminated on this question many times throughout my 30s, but it became more urgent when I added children to my life. I want to contribute to a world where they and every child can grow up safe, secure, and joyful, and I want to live with empathy and imagination. Might this combo of desire and approach inspire a virtuous cycle—if I can picture a more hope-filled world, am I more energized to realize it?

How do I inspire my children to believe in something bigger than themselves?

In my life, "something bigger" means God, but I don't yet know what that concept might mean to my kids—maybe a connection to the divine, or maybe family, community, the environment, or a well-cultivated sense of wonder and awe. Regardless of the construct, I want them to internalize two truths: that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that they are most certainly not the center of the universe. If they grow up understanding and fulfilling their shared responsibility to care for the world around them, I'll consider it a win. The question is, am I making this responsibility and love visible enough in my own life to model it well?

How do I cultivate the courage to transform faith into action?

One of the unfortunate side effects of the combined events of the past five years (having two children, surviving pandemic, watching American politics disintegrate) is that while I know it is imperative to confront the unwatchable, I am increasingly reluctant to do so. But if I don't know what I am facing, how can I face it? My constant area for growth is to examine my convictions and act on what they're telling me. I will never be without fear, but I also believe I can always grow in love amid and beyond the discomfort, so I want to keep trying—enough to encourage my children, enough to foster hope. (See what I did there?! It all ties together!)

Now tell me where you are. What have been your questions and doubts, your surprises and disappointments, and your insights and discoveries about faith, life, and the ways one impacts the other? Comment here, and also join the conversation on my social channels using #MidlifeCrisisOfFaith so we can feel a little less alone on this winding journey.

Prayer #390: "Decisive of Recovery or Death"

Marriage oaths trumpet "for better or for worse," but as I stare down four decades of living with myself, I'm starting to think that all of life's turning points should have the same opportunity for reflection and avowal:

A chance to say "I do"...

A chance to profess "I don't" ...

A chance to promise "I will" ...

A chance to declare "I won't" ...

A chance to confess "I'm worse" ...

A chance to suggest "I'd better" ...


Indeed, I want a moment dedicated entirely to recommitting

not to all my choices or circumstances

not to all my victories or defeats

not to all my mistakes or epiphanies

not to all I understand myself to be

but to everything I might become

if I simply accept the grace inherent in admitting uncertainty.