I’ve hit some walls. My body disappoints me. It hurts in places that never seemed to exist. Despite occasionally working out, I gain weight, my cholesterol goes up, and my strength lessens. My health problems get more and more serious as I age.
Work doesn’t excite me as much. And I teach high school students, a fun and rewarding population to work with. I know I’m making an important impact in the world, I’m gaining mastery of my craft, and I’m making more money, but after 15 years something is lacking.
And perhaps — the hardest of all walls — I’ve experienced deep betrayal in relationships at all levels — micro to macro — in my church, in my small group, in business, at work, my marriage, my family, and even in local and national culture. I even betray myself.
Richard Rohr calls this point in life the Crisis of Limitations.
In his audiobook, Men and Women, the Journey of Spiritual Transformation, Rohr outlines the masculine and feminine path of transformation and describes critical decision points on the journey. See a visual synopsis of the whole path here.
On our spiritual journeys, God offers us critical decision points to reconcile with Him and others. He offers peace, joy, and wisdom. He offers the gift of just being rather than the frustration and stress of striving.
Rohr warns that people have to make critical spiritual decisions when they hit certain points in the journey.
Upon hitting the Crisis of Limitations (usually at mid-life), a man can fail to see those limitations, continue acquiring and accomplishing, and become a shallow, old fool.
Up to this stage of life, at least in America, there is a pretty clear plan: graduate high school, graduate college, get a good job, get married, buy a big house, get some nice stuff, set up to work as little as possible while making as much money as possible, take nice vacations, set your kids on the same plan, and set up to work as little as possible in retirement in Florida or Arizona … maybe take some Alaskan cruises and see some whales.
But if a man recognizes his limitations and his wounds, he has still another decision. He can take responsibility, see them as sacred teachers, and head on the Path of Wisdom, the path of the Holy Fool. Or he can choose to blame others for his pain and turn into the Bitter Man.
As I reflect on my current crisis of limitations, I am at a loss. I’m not sure what to do, what to feel, or how to act sometimes. Unfortunately and fortunately, here may be exactly where God wants us when we hit the crisis of limitations.
I look to my old paths — working out more, trying to make more money, learning more, even serving more at church or just generally getting busier and trying harder at whatever. But my old operating systems, making plans, working harder, even certain spiritual disciplines don’t work as well. Holding too tightly to my old paths and ideals bring me pain and frustration rather than clarity, joy, and peace.
Rohr suggests instead that men begin letting go and embark on the path of wisdom, the path of a holy fool reconciled to all things, God, and people as Christ was, at peace living in ambivalence and paradox.
There, we accept that we don’t have control. We don’t really have answers. We live in the mystery and trust God alone.
Though I don’t want to hold on to any single “path” to wisdom, I am finding that family and friendships are truly more important than anything. I’m finding that time in nature and in reflection can help me stay on this spiritual path.
And as my friend, Greg Hawkins suggests, just staying open to meeting God and seeing stories in every interaction help me experience the spiritual path.
After 11 thorough chapters proving the worthlessness of everything, the writer of Ecclesiastes summarizes the only appropriate response, “fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind…”(Ecclesiastes 12:13).
So I wait. I stay present. I connect with my people. And believe it or not, God unravels a perfect plan, perfectly, infinitely cooler than any plan I could muster up.
I look forward to discussing the other masculine stages and the feminine spiritual journey in future posts. Our Crucible community and retreats are sacred places perfect for facing your work on the spiritual journey in a community full of truth and grace.
Some questions, men:
- Where are you on the masculine spiritual journey?
- How has God hijacked your plans?
- How do you respond to your crisis of limitations? How do you wait patiently, staying open to God?
- How much does age affect your spiritual stage, if at all?
By Marc Mantasoot
Marc completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2004 and graduated from our two-year transformational program in 2008. He wants to help others pursue their God-given joy and free the world of ego. He is an award-winning poet, writer, small groups/discipleship coach, high school English teacher and martial arts trainer. He provides powerful methods for life transformation at marcmantasoot.com. His greatest joys: Creating scenes with his son, lining up My Little Ponies with his baby girl, and pursuing his irresistible wife.