Midlife: A Portrait

Posted on January 16, 2008 · Posted in Midlife, Ruling Desires

The next few
posts are drawn from the penetrating insights of Paul David Tripp’s book Lost in the Middle. These insights
intersect with the biblical perspectives taught in Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart. I can almost hear someone asking, “What does
a book on midlife have to do with a book on childrearing?”  The connection is this: what rules those in
midlife also rules children. That connection, of course, is the heart.

Proverbs
4:23 says:

Above all else, guard your heart,
       for it is the wellspring of life.

The heart determines
the things that matter most to us. Our treasures in this world reflect the true
longings of our hearts. This is true for
everyone, including both the child and the midlife adult. In chapter 1 of Lost in the Middle Paul Tripp sketches a
portrait of life. This sketch is helpful not only for those in midlife, but
also for understanding the ruling desires of children. As we look at some of
these dominant themes in midlife, also look at how these same themes are at
work in your children. It is not difficult to project these ruling attitudes
and desires into midlife. By identifying these themes in your children now you
can begin to prepare your children to chart a safe course through the turbulent
waters of midlife.

For example,
Paul Tripp talks about “ruling desires.” On page 50 we read:

“Midlife
struggles very pointedly reveal the heart. The interpretations a person brings
to the events and new awareness of midlife are not the result of objectively
held abstract theology. No, the functional theology that shapes the way a
person responds during this period is rooted in the values, treasures and
cravings of the person’s heart. Midlife crisis in its most basic form is not an
event crisis, an awareness crisis, or a crisis of aging. It is a crisis of the
heart. Midlife exposes what a person has really been living for and where a
person has tried to find meaning and purpose. ”

Wow! No wonder
Solomon says to guard your heart!

Now take
this analysis and apply it to your children. When your five year old is angry
that his little brother has a toy he wants, something is exposed about what is
important him. When your daughter
constantly sulks when she is asked to do stop playing and come help, you have a
window into what influences control her. The trap for parents is to take such incidents and treat them as
individual behavioral events that must be corrected or tolerated or excused.
When you miss the connection between sulking and a deeper heart attitude of
selfishness, you wind up treating a symptom rather than a cause. If you place the sulking attitude in the
context of midlife you will see a woman who is always frustrated and “down”
because others are not serving her wishes and desires.  Or a man who is angry and resentful because he
has been passed over for promotion.

Why not take
some time now and examine your children’s behavior in the light of their
“functional theology”? By helping your child identify what controls him now,
you can help him seek God in the years of midlife that lie ahead.

If you have
some examples of seeing your children’s behavior as a window into the inner
desires that control them, please feel free to leave a comment. Or if you have
some questions about the connection between childhood and midlife, ask them.

More on this
thread in the next post.

 

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