Lost In The Middle

Paul Tripp, one of my favorite authors, wrote a book a few years ago entitled Lost In The Middle. I just recently picked it up and have found it to be full of insightful truths from Scripture and truths about the human heart. If you can’t tell from the title, the book is designed to help people in midlife navigate the challenges unique to that season of life. In order to give you something to think about today and to motivate you to buy the book at The Crossing’s bookstore and read it, I pass on the following from one of the chapters that I’ve enjoyed the most thus far.

In the chapter called “The Death of Invincibility,” Tripp discusses the struggle people face as they deal with the changes that come from the aging process. One of the contributing factors in our struggle is the focus of our culture. Here are the main points in this section along with a few juicy quotes.

1. The youthification of Western culture.

“The tendency of modern Western culture to despise aging and to worship youthfulness is one subtle indicator of how far it has moved away from a biblical perspective on life. In Scripture old age is a sign of God’s covenantal faithfulness. It is also connected to functional wisdom. We on the other hand crave youth, dread getting old, and quickly put out to pasture all those who have lived long enough to have acquired some functional life-wisdom. This ageism is part of the oxygen of our culture. We all breathe it in daily, and it has affected the way each of us views who we are and where we are going.”

2. The affluence of Western culture.

“Recently I was visited by a friend from India. I asked him to give his impression of Americans. He hesitated for a bit, and I assured him that it was okay to be honest. What he said next I will never forget. “Because you have so much, you complain so much.” I was taken aback by the power of his analysis. It seems like it would be the other way, but it is not. Sinners not only struggle with want; they have a terrible time handling blessing. Sin makes all of us scarily self-absorbed and endlessly ravenous. When we have everything we need, we complain that we do not have more of everything, that others have better everything than we have, or we manufacture new things to crave. We worry more and are depressed more easily. We have time and money to pay attention to things that we were once too busy to notice.”

3. A culture of leisure.

“A self-absorbed, pleasure-obsessed culture will be intolerant of all the painful, discomforting, and embarrassing physical changes of midlife. If food is what brings me pleasure, then I will curse the fact that I now have to watch what I eat. If exercise is what makes me feel good about myself, I will hate the fact that I am not able to do physically what I once did. If the beauty of youth has been my source of identity, I will curse the evidences of old age that are harder and harder to hide. A pleasure-obsessed, leisure-driven culture will tend to curse aging and all the physical changes that go with it.”

4. The death of eternity.

“Eternity reminds us that no one has the power to take away the things that are really worth living for; the things that you cannot touch, taste, weigh, quantify, or hold in your hand. When you have one eye on eternity, this present physical world looks entirely different.”

5. The rise of cosmetic technology.

“It is hard enough for the average middle-aged person to live in Western culture without constantly mourning the loss of his or her youth, but it is even harder when the surrounding culture has increasingly elevated standards of physical appearance. When your culture obsesses over the size and shape of one’s nose, the fullness of one’s lips, or the relative tightness of one’s abs, all who live in that culture will tend to curse aging and all the physical changes it brings with it.”

6. The death of the Inner Man.

“When you are in a culture that underestimates the rich inner world of the heart, that culture will tend to think of the physical you as the real you. Would this not add power to experience of physical aging? If the real me is the physical me and my body is progressively growing older and weaker, would it not reinforce my feelings of discouragement and dread as I face the realities of aging?”

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