My Mid-Life Crisis

December 16, 2003

[My so-called mid-life crisis]A couple years ago, back when I was 39, I had my mid-life crisis. We had just left our last church (the only time we’ve ever walked away from a church). I was just beginning to get acquainted with the Christian postmodern conversation. It was a time of great angst for me, because I had to question the way of thinking I had devoted myself to ever since I became a Christ-follower at the age of 11.

“Deconstruction” is a big part of postmodernity; it’s a big word for tearing down basic assumptions. Deconstructing myself — that was what I was going through, and it was painful, scary and lonely.

The trouble was, Kay wasn’t going through her own deconstruction. She had anger and sadness over all the reasons we left our church, but she didn’t identify with the questions I was raising about our faith. This only increased my loneliness, for I thought, “Nobody understands me or shares my feelings… not even Kay!”

Way back in the days before we had children, Kay & I used to read books — together. We would snuggle up, and I would read aloud to her. We read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in this way! And I suppose this experience prepared me for my nightly ritual with my children, when I gather them to read another chapter from whatever book we happen to be reading.

Well, I bought a copy of A New Kind of Christian and decided I wanted to read it with Kay. So we read, and talked, and read, and talked some more. What we discovered lifted me from my despair:

She never was a modernist Christian.

The reason she did not identify with my angst-ridden deconstruction of my dogmatic, modernist, analytical, black-and-white faith was that she did not identify with that kind of faith to begin with. Her difficulty was in trying to “fit in”, to try to be a “good Christian” the way it was expected of her. She tried hard, but the shoe never fit.

In terms I learned from Leonard Sweet, I was an immigrant in the new land. But she was a native.

Relief flooded over me, over us both, as I realized there was no need for her to share in my self-deconstruction. Instead, we came away from reading A New Kind of Christian each saying the same thing: “So I’m not crazy.”

Jon Reid

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As an American missionary kid who grew up in Japan, I'm a child of two cultures, while not fully belonging to either. This gives me a sightly different view of the world.

9 responses to My Mid-Life Crisis

  1. That’s a great post, Jon. I think it’s time for me to post now. Thanks.

  2. in the leonard sweet (native / immigrant) taxonomy, i’ve always considered myself to be a person captured and raised by wolves (the modern church), and only recently returned to human society. i have to re-learn everything all over again, and my wolf reflexes keep getting me in trouble.

  3. Great post Jon–thanks for sharing. Happened to be exactly what I learned of my wife, as I went through my “quarter century old crisis”. Which by the way was no less significant, though I’m nearly a full decade and a half younger. Nothing like finding a way to rub someone’s age in on them in their moment of vulnerability…=)
    Seriously though–Why is that? Why is it that our wive’s seemed to never get abducted by the systematic theology of modernity? I found exactly the same isolation, and found that by the time I got my arms around this transition, my wife was there waiting for for me.
    Maybe it has something to do with the way we as men have to understand everything, or something about the way we process information that slows down the evolution of our thought. Interesting.

  4. Kay sez: “Both you and Jared need to understand that you are married to artists, and artists are not normal. Modernism was invented by men. Besides, men are brain-damaged. (But we still love you.)”

  5. My wife and I are reading Waking the Dead by John Eldredge. It is a similar feeling, though less of a postmodern explosion. Thanks for sharing.

  6. kay–I’ve got a question for you. Why is it that when men think differently it’s retarded, and when women think differently it’s artistic?
    =) hahaha…not that I’m arguing that you do indeed have a point.

  7. Jared – LOVE that comment….hahahahaha
    Jon, I was there when you went thru that. I have fond memories of great discussions in the hot tub with y’all. Miss you!!!
    As a woman, I went thru it too, in my own way. I don’t think it is a male/female thing. Jor (my husband) and I both went thru it. Loved the book, New Kind of Christian. May have to read that again. Jor connected more with (and is still reading) Divine Conspiracy. For me it was the opposite. DC was awesome, but hard reading for me. Never finished it.

  8. For no other reason than just to chime in, I found that my artistic and talented wife (best singer I’ve heard personally) is very modern and I’m the opposite. I know why, but she’s not having as hard of a time adapting that train of thought to a more (insert progressive cliche here) way of thinking and living.
    She’s much better than any guy I know doing the same thing. For that matter I also think that women in general are much better at it. There’s an innocence and desire for honesty in them that truly trumps us men most days.
    This is to say, that has been my own experience. Nothing more.

  9. Wow. Mind-boggling. I wonder when and how I’ll cross my midlife crisis bridge! 😛 What do you notice is a common area of concern, anxiety, or frustration at the midlife-level? Do you think it has anything to do with deep down convictions? Or just what’s really affecting you and your life at the moment of the crisis? (Am I thinking too much?) heh.