When I was young(er), I was free. Free from righteousness, as
I remember remarking rather blithely during my early- or mid-thirties that a monk ought never to have a mid-life crisis, because he of all people knows the meaning of his life, and one who is securely on the path to the Kingdom of Heaven ought never to feel compelled to do the dopey things or have the doubts and nagging fears of those who think they may have made the wrong choices, wasted their lives, don’t know what the future holds, and if only they’d done things differently… Famous last words, as they say. I did have a sort of crisis in my early 40s. I realize, in retrospect, that you don’t really see it coming, and by time you recognize it, it’s too late, and then you just—if you’re a monk—try to trust God and ride out the storm. But even monks’ moorings can be susceptible to a bit of slippage. However, the relentless monastic schedule of services, full of inexorable divine counsels—with the still more relentless, tenacious, ubiquitous, and indefatigable love and mercy of God—tends to re-tighten them, Deo gratias. For me it’s all kind of a blur now. Someone will have to tell me what I was like back then. I think I was elected abbot during that time. Anyway, I did have some doubts, and I guess I did a few dopey things, but all in all it was more of an interior mid-life crisis (monks favor the interior life, you know), and the Holy Spirit restrained me from doing a whole lot of damage.
So now what do I have to look forward to—a three-quarter-life crisis? I guess if I’m still around in another 15 or 20 years, I can have one of those, too. Not that I enjoy crises, but perhaps we do need a crisis every once in a while so that we have the opportunity to consciously recommit ourselves to what we know is right and good, rather than slipping into complacency or quiet desperation. “Crisis,” after all, comes from a Greek word meaning “decision” or “judgment.” We may need to have times of decision so that we can ratify who we are and what we’re doing here. If God is going to grant us many years, we ought to have some idea of what to do with them, how to bear good fruit for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. The only crisis I don’t want to have is an end-of-life crisis. The time of proximate preparation for crossing the threshold of eternity is not the time to start second-guessing one’s vocation. But I don’t expect to be looking back with regretful dread on a wasted life, as some people inevitably will. I hope that I will simply and serenely trust that God has accepted the prayer and labors and offerings of my life, has forgiven my failures to be all He has called me to be, and is ready to accept his mostly-faithful and sometimes-recalcitrant servant into his heavenly kingdom.So, 47 is OK for now. I’ve yet a lot of work to do, I think, promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. But I daresay I’ll not be much troubled when at length it’s time to be relieved of this mortal frame. Someone asked me once what I thought heaven would be like. “Rest,” I replied, “eternal rest!”