Getting stuck in the middle is no fun. Kids will do just about anything to avoid that dreaded middle seat in the car and so much has been written over the years about the “middle child syndrome”. As the first child in my family, I had no empathy for my siblings who had that unenviable position in our family line- up and probably caused some of the angst they experienced throughout our childhood together. Only in recent years have I begun to appreciate what they had to put up with and what getting stuck in the middle can produce – a really unique perspective. You have the ability to watch what others are doing ahead of you and to relate more easily to those coming behind you. If you do it well, you can be a catalyst for positive change in those around you.
This week I turned 47 years of age and realized something important. I am just about twenty years into my work here with CLC and about 20 years from retirement (that is if I or anyone in my generation actually retires at 67). In many ways I am right in the middle of my professional career and enjoying the view from the middle. Looking back there have been many ups and downs, but gratefully I can truly say that there have been many more highs than lows and God has sustained me though all of them. While hindsight is always twenty –twenty, and there are many things I would change if I had to do it over again, I can see how so many of these experiences have shaped the person that I am today.
So what does life in the middle look like? For starters, it means spending more time with people who are a few years ahead of me. I had lunch this week with a Christian businessman who is 20 years further down the road than I am and really enjoying his life. He regaled me with tales of God’s faithfulness to him as he was challenged to give beyond what he might normally have wanted to. He pointed out God’s command in Malachi 3:10 where he says,
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
His face lit up as he described a day not many years ago when he was standing on the floor of his business looking around and realizing that God had provided so much blessing, he did not know what to do with it all. This counter-intuitive approach to money management was very challenging to me and will influence my thinking in the years ahead.
The very next day, I met a pastor who is almost the same age and who shared something unique with this Christian businessman – a radiant joy and a sense of peace and calm. Both of them are at the helm of what anyone would view as successful organizations. This particular pastor started a church that now has thousands of members and he is in oversight of 34 other churches as well. You would think that he would be exhausted and very “weary in well doing” as he provides leadership for such a large organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. He appeared healthy, happy and relaxed. I had to know what his secret was. As we talked, I could tell that he was enjoying a season of pouring into others. He was teaching, mentoring, empowering and challenging younger men and it was clearly invigorating. Building an empire did not matter to him; building up people that will change the world is his life’s passion.
As I embrace this new phase of life, I have learned a lot from the mistakes I have made, but will not focus on them. As a teenager, one of my mentors at that time shared a verse with me that has become a focal point and something of a life verse,
“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”