I’d always heard that God had a wonderful plan for my life. But in my early forties, as the losses and unwelcome transitions started to accumulate, I found myself asking new questions about my relationships, my work, my purpose, and my faith. Frankly, things didn’t look all that wonderful. I understood God hadn’t changed. But I was disoriented by the changes that were happening both within and all around me.
I discovered I wasn’t alone. As I started writing about my questions more than a decade ago, I began hearing from women and men from all over the country who shared their stories with me. I also learned that many churches aren’t entirely sure how to support and strengthen the growing faith of those at midlife – even when it looks like that faith has hit the proverbial wall. Many congregations approach the task of discipleship with a strong focus on early-stage faith training. We pour lots of energy and money into ministry focused on children and families. And many congregations are deeply committed to equipping new believers with the basics of the faith. This is beautiful and important work.
The lack of emphasis on ongoing disciple-making among those further along in their journey with Jesus leads many to assume that simply repeating the same patterns they learned as new believers will sustain them throughout their days. While the practice of classic spiritual disciplines are foundational to spiritual growth, it is equally true that the questions, transitions, and shifts that take place at midlife and beyond call for different kinds of conversation, prayer, reflection, and response to God. He is calling each one of us to grow toward maturity, and sometimes (often!) that means some pruning and reshaping of our lives must occur. And it often happens during “our wonder years” – midlife.
Leslie and I first connected online, and a few years ago, she invited me to submit an essay for the beautiful book she was creating about midlife. That conversation led to others, and last fall, when I saw a note she’d penned wondering if other women at midlife and beyond might be interested in an “in real life” gathering, I jumped. I’d recently been involved in helping to create a local event for midlife women that had been very well-received, and I knew there was great hunger for more events focused on second-half of life discipleship themes.
I am looking forward to what will transpire in the lives of the women who attend one of the Wonder Years Gatherings in 2020! I am certain they’ll be strengthened, challenged, and inspired by the world-class speakers and workshop facilitators. I am excited about the new relationships to form among those joining us. And I’m dreaming of the potential for churches to grab hold of the vision of life-long spiritual formation – and for communities to be blessed by the wisdom and nurture of the sage women living and ministering in their midst.
It may not look like what we dreamed for ourselves when we were younger, but I am certain God has a wonderful plan for our wonder years. Leslie and I are prayerfully looking forward to exploring together what that wonder might look like for each one of us. Please join us at either Mt. Hermon or Green Lake as we wonder together!