On my thirtieth birthday, I remember cutting my birthday cake and telling my friends, “I hope my thirties are better than my twenties.” My husband glared at me. “Hey, we got married when you were in your twenties!” If I remember correctly, I blew him a kiss, blinked my eyelashes, and gave him a piece of chocolate cake.
My twenties began with an eating disorder, progressed through numerous counseling appointments and medications, continued with a quarter-life identity crisis, secondary infertility and a miscarriage, and ended with postpartum issues after my second daughter’s birth. Yes, good things happened: I married my husband, had two beautiful children, received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and rediscovered my passion for writing.
Still I had as many disappointments as achievements in my twenties, and I wondered if my next decade—or even the rest of my life, for that matter—would bring more of the same. Had I already achieved everything I was going to achieve in my life? Did God really want me to write the novel I was working on or was that my selfish ambition? Was there some purpose to the pain I went through for ten years? And was God going to give me a purpose for the rest of my life?
I approached reviewing Embracing Your Second Calling by Dale Hanson Bourke with a bit of hesitation. After all, the book is aimed at middle-aged women and thirty-two isn’t quite middle-aged by most people’s standards. Still, the subtitle—Find Passion and Purpose for the Rest of Your Life—was enough to make me order the book. I’m glad I did.
“Perhaps middle age is, or should be, a period of shedding shells; the shell of ambition, the shell of material accumulations and possessions, the shell of ego.” –Anne Morrow Lindbergh
After I read this quote in the opening chapter of the book, I couldn’t help but think of a story from John Piper’s book Don’t Waste Your Life. A couple in the Northeast retired and moved to Florida. He was 59, she was 51. They now spend their lives cruising on their trawler, playing softball and collecting seashells. It was their dream come true: accumulating material possessions, gratifying their ambition to retire early, and patting their ego on the back and telling themselves that they deserved a comfortable retirement. Yet it was a complete waste of their one-and-only God-given life. Piper writes,
Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy.
It’s that type of tragedy that Bourke urges us to avoid. Just when our lives seem to wind down, when our culture says women are “past their prime”, when we’re tempted to allow sagging energy levels and life disappointments to cause us to lose spiritual momentum, that’s when we can find our second calling.
Look at the Biblical character Naomi from the book of Ruth. Bourke points to Naomi frequently and with good reason. She’s the perfect example of a woman who is caught unaware by mid-life tragedy: her husband and her sons die, leaving her in a foreign land, no one to support her in her old age, and well past marriageable age.
Like many of us, she realized that the dreams of the first half of her life will never come true. I came to that realization a while back. I’ve had to face the fact that I have certain physical and mental issues that will limit my ability to achieve everything I once thought I could do.
Reality had dawned. Hitting #1 on the New York Times bestseller list doesn’t happen to every author, especially not one who has little energy to devote to the self-promotion that publishing requires now. I may not even get my novel published. I may never be able to go off my medications and remain stable. I will probably struggle with hormonal issues for many years more.
Disappointing. But there’s hope even in our disappointments.
Your ministry will be where your misery has been. —T.D. Jakes
God wants to redeem the pain and misery in our first half and the disappointments of midlife to give us a second calling, a passion and purpose for living. God has brought every circumstance into our lives for a reason. Everything belongs, even when we can’t see it.
So what am I supposed to do with all these circumstances and pains and disappointments?
Our second calling isn’t about what we do. It’s about who we become.
It’s about praying . . . being available and willing to use those pains to mentor and minister to others. . . . being willing to open our hearts . . . seeing what talents and gifts we can pass on to others . . . hearing God’s calling and setting aside our prideful mentality that says “I couldn’t possibly do that!” . . . being faithful even when we can’t see God’s hand at work. . . . finishing well.
I do not pray for success; I ask for faithfulness. —Mother Teresa
There were times that I read with tears in my eyes, nodding in agreement with Bourke’s words, reading and re-reading the quotations scattered throughout the book, sitting back to let her words sink in. This doesn’t happen with many books I read. Nor do I often recommend a book to others or want to reread a book once I’m finished with it. But I’m doing both now.
Like Don’t Waste Your Life, this book impacted me on many levels.
- It confirmed that God had a purpose for my tumultuous teens and twenties.
- It confirmed that when I felt compelled to write fiction, God was giving me this desire.
- It confirmed that when I write stories about characters who are dealing with issues I’ve dealt with, and I feel vulnerable and exposed through this, that God is pulling me into this vulnerable position.
Not so I can list another achievement on my life resumé but so he is glorified through me.
(Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Thomas Nelson Publishing in exchange for a review on my blog. But I didn’t just give it a good review because it was free! It really is a great book! Interested in blogging and reading free books? Check out the details at Booksneeze.com or click on the Booksneeze link on my sidebar.)