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College for 40-year-olds?

9 Comments 05 July 2010

“Wholly unprepared, they embark upon the second half of life. Or are there perhaps colleges for forty-year-olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands as the ordinary colleges introduce our young people to a knowledge of the world and of life? No, there are none. Thoroughly unprepared we take the step into the afternoon of life; worse still, we take this step with the false presupposition that our truths and ideas will serve as hitherto. But we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the programme of life’s morning – for what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening have become a lie.”  Carl Jung

This quote gets my attention.  When I read it in Sue Monk Kidd’s When the Heart Waits I was jarred, you know, like the cartoon kitty who gets hit on the head with a larger than life hammer and has stars and circles dancing around his head.  It made sense to me like few things make sense these days.  I don’t think it is a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” kind of statement.  And by that I mean that I do not believe that Jung is saying that everything that we have from the first forty years of our life is a lie, but instead, I personally believe that if we choose to stop learning, stop growing, stop developing who we are, then we live in the past.  We live within the confines of what we learned to be true in those early years and that can be a lie for the next forty years.

Why?  Well, I can only speak from personal experience and I lived a very different life from years 22 until 33 than I do now.  I lived in an extremely black and white world.  Things and problems, including suffering and difficulties were packaged neatly into categories and set on the shelves of my life.  I objectified people and their problems, their struggles, by laying down hard and fast the way things were and the way they should be.  My faith was a rigid and oppressive thing that held my life and my world in place.  If you questioned it, I would eat you alive.  I was the ‘truthslayer’ I would jokingly say to people.  I prided myself on telling the truth.  In reality, what I did was often crush people without entering into their pain or their mess.

The ‘programme of life’s morning’ for me was very clean, very neat and, I thought, very safe.  It made me feel secure to think that I knew all the answers and that God was on my side.  I quickly became a student in the program of life once again after Mari-Helen’s birth and then that was quickly followed by Drew’s diagnosis of Type I diabetes.  It was as if the library of my life, where I had worked tediously to place each and every volume in its place, tirelessly crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s, was all of a sudden, in a heap on the floor.

I realized at lightening speed that what had been ‘great in the morning’ would not suffice for my quickly approaching evening.  Not only did I see that it was a lie, but I saw that it was not at all safe.  It had not held me in place, it had held me in a very sterile and self-righteous place that allowed me to look down upon the suffering of those around me, but it was not a place that I belonged.  I quickly realized that I was made for the mess.  I was made, not for the safety of black and white, but for the mess and mire that is the gray.  I found that it was way down there, or now, way down here, where I live today, that the real human beings live.  In the sufferings and pain, with the compassion and empathy of each other…all here in the gray.  The air is much easier to breathe down here for real humans.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as ‘colleges for forty-year-olds which prepare them for their coming life and its demands,’ but I feel as if I have been to a college like that…as if I have learned what is insufficient from my morning.  I may not yet know how to apply what I have learned to my evening, but I am certainly moving forward with a humility that I had no inkling of in my morning.  There are no ‘false presuppositions’ here, only questions and mysteries and wonderings.  The central truth, that God is real, that he cares for me particularly and that he knows my evening better than I do, that is what keeps me moving forward.  That part is not a lie, but how I apply that truth to my evening is far, far, far different that I ever applied it to my morning.

What will you take into your evening from your morning?  Are you moving into your evening with false presuppositions?

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9 Comments so far

  1. Lori Hendrix says:

    Well said Jorja. Every forty year old woman needs to read this. I am so very different now than I was twenty years ago. Jud and I are so very different now. That Carl….I tell you. Your reflection on younger years certainly takes me back. So grateful for the grace and the authenticity that I have found in so many to encourage me on my path of life.

    • Jorja says:

      lori, lori, lori…oh my, you and i are in such different places than we were back at good ol’ s.u.! i would love the luxury of going to college for what lies ahead, huh? love you

  2. Prasanta says:

    A mutual friend, Cynthia Insko, whom I saw recently, told me about your blog, and I’ve been following your blog since then. I,too, was at Samford at the same time as you, although I never knew you then. I am glad to “know” you now!

    I appreciate your candor, and your ability to express yourself so clearly in writing. So much of what you say resonates and rings true for me. I am also someone who is in a stage where I want to live “beyond all the limitations that have kept them from fulfilling their passions, pursuing their dreams”, and am a different person than I was 20 years ago–and thank goodness! But there is still a long way to go. Our trials and experiences have been different, Jorja, but nonetheless have brought us to a similar point. I’m excited to have found you and your blog and I look forward to sharing this journey with you.

    • Jorja says:

      Prasanta, so good to hear from you. I am always thrilled to know that there is someone out there, anyone, anywhere who is finding some benefit from my writing this blog. There are days that I find myself wondering why I am doing it! I appreciate the encouragement and am excited to hear where your path takes you!

  3. This concept I experienced first hand learning kickboxing at 46- do not let what you never did stop you from trying it now 😉 I mean, what do we have to lose?

  4. Judy Helfand says:

    I came by yesterday and read your post. I couldn’t write to you yesterday, because I knew I needed to weigh my words carefully. I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I am pretty sure that had we met say 12 years ago, I may not have wanted to get to know you. “In reality, what I did was often crush people without entering into their pain or their mess.” This happens when we see only black and white.

    Last month you wrote about “Questions, Not Answers”. At that time, I commented about “your forevers” and “my forevers”. The “forevers” that enter our lives and shape them. These are the gray areas. This is what forces us to re-evaluate and re-educate ourselves.

    What confuses me is this: You wrote once about the pain you experienced in 5th grade, how it felt to be an underdog and how you always fight for the underdog. What happened between 5th grade and age 33 that made you stop fighting for the underdog and start objectifying people and their problems?

    Jung’s words are powerful. Your words are powerful and tonight I am grateful to know you and to see the capacity of empathy that shines in this the twilight of your life.

  5. elizabeth says:

    Hello my dear! GREAT post. Since I am NEWLY 40:) my eyes have been opened, the blinds lifted, my heart undone. My fear of REALLY feeling, REALLY loving, REALLY hurting has lessened and I am alive…Hallelujah!

    Not sure what any of this has to do with being 40 but this year has been such a stretching, growing, groaning, rejoicing time.

    Miss you. Kiss the kiddos for me.

    • Jorja says:

      E, so very excited to have you reading along. it is something about this point in life…i truly believe we either begin to grow and know ourselves better or we stagnate! i would never expect you to be anything less than a “grower!”

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things to make you wonder~

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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