By all counts, my faith is middle-aged. It began as a child – fear and wrinkle free. It grew as a turbulent teenager with angst and rebellion, heartfelt sobs and belief that I, not God was the center. My faith then went into its twenties with belief that it could change the world, the thirties where it sobered up and grew theologically, and now – now as I am thoroughly “middle-aged”, it is scarily, chronically, beginning to ache and feel like there is no way it will hold up until it’s 80’s.
This is the place where my soul sat in church one day – disconnected, disenfranchised and discombobulated – looking at the younger and far more vibrant souls and hair of those around me. Watching their ease and enthusiasm with one another did nothing to comfort me or help me to say “Wow, I’m glad I’m here – I’m glad I left the warmth and lack of accountability that my couch offers me and came HERE to this place!” Though thoroughly familiar with the church since I was a young child, I felt a stranger and completely alone.
And the speaker (who I will admit is over 48 so did not fall into my judgmental inner diatribe) began with the genealogy of Saint Matthew. “Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob….Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar…Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz Begot Obed by Ruth” and on and on we went until the end of the chapter. In what could have been the dullest sermon of the decade I felt my middle-aged faith begin to revive on the power of scripture. I felt a bit like Augustine when in his doubt he heard a small child say “Read”. The speaker’s words entered my soul with life-giving nourishment. God with his infinite understanding of the human condition placing this first chapter of Matthew full of names not theology was a balm to this soul, for what is theology if it can’t transform the human condition? Recognizing how my life related in some eternal way to this genealogy that in the past had been just names was transformative.
My connection with a duplicitous woman (Tamar), a woman who was a prostitute (Rahab), and a foreigner forbidden from the temple for 4 generations (Ruth) was a connection only a sovereign God could make. God’s supernatural ability to allow me, in the words of the speaker, to have “No regrets – an abiding and deep confidence in the Providence of God – that I in all my faults and flaws am woven into the tapestry of his redemptive plan” (paraphrased) was a gift to me in this season of life – and a gift to me as I continue my 5th decade of life.
A middle-aged faith is still how I would describe my journey– but just as I have seen the graciousness of God in my past decades I will “entrust myself to a faithful creator and continue to do what is right” and I will never dismiss Matthew 1 again.