While so many of our popular Christian authors are writing books about how to grow your church, save the next generation, and be effective in ministry, most of the original church fathers and mothers, as well as many of the mystics of today, are writing about how to grow ourselves, how to save our sanity through life’s stages, and be effective in seeing what God is up to in this world. For them, the focus is not on our doing, but on our witnessing what God is doing.
Richard Rohr, whom I number among the later group, in his book “Falling Upward” speaks of this spiritual growth as life’s first and second journeys. The first journey, which is life up to what we know of as the mid-life crisis, is all about building the vessel of our life: reputation, career, family, accomplishment, confidence, house and home. The second journey, which is life after the mid-life crisis, is all about filling that vessel with what really matters in life. After the mid-life crisis (my words, not his), we find ourselves done with success, being the best, career building, and the like. Instead, we are more interested in simplicity, service to this world not for our reputation’s sake but for the sake of others, sharing wisdom to help others become mature, and welcoming everyone around us.
The transition between the two, what we might call the mid-life crisis or liminal time, is a time of suffering. We cannot move from the first journey to the second without a time of suffering. “All change is viewed as loss” a wise man once said, and this may be the biggest change we face, bigger than adolescence, marriage, or parenting. So it is logical that this would be a time of suffering.
And maybe that is exactly what Peter is talking about when he says, “…because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.”