When you hear the term “mid-life crisis,” what comes to mind? For me, it’s the image of George Banks in “Father of the Bride 2” with freshly dyed hair, revving the engine of his convertible as he eyes an attractive young gal in a nearby car.
Turning 40 or 50 or 60 can be traumatic. It’s natural to begin wondering: “How is life flying by so quickly? What have I done that matters? How much time do I have left?”
To avoid answering those challenging questions, some amp up the quest for comfort by increased self indulgence. Thinking time is running out, it’s easy to abandon the moral high ground and start looking out for #1. For some, that means a new car. For others, a new wife. Some sink into depression. Others pour themselves into sports. Some just pour another glass of wine.
But some choose a different path when the realization strikes that life is short. Driven by an overriding desire to please God with their choices, these brave souls say yes to radical change. Some might call that crazy. I call it inspiring.
My friends, Jana and Jim Fletcher, are two that have inspired me by their willingness to say yes to God’s calling. Born and raised in the small town of Thomaston, Georgia, the Fletchers came from well-respected families. Jim was the co-owner of his family’s funeral home, started by his great-grandfather in 1892. We’re talking deep roots and big expectations for Jim to continue in well established family tracks for the rest of his life.
But something began stirring in the Fletchers’ hearts. Jana explains: “It felt like an open suitcase was in our bedroom, and as God would continue to teach us, it was as though He was putting things in our suitcase, preparing us for coming change.” They waited for that change for a decade.
My life intersected with the Fletchers in the fall of 2012 on a mission trip to Uganda. I loved hearing them talk about their hunger to be obedient to God’s calling on their lives. A memory from that trip symbolizes their willingness to depart from the “straight and narrow.” One day, our team walked to our destination for several hours on a muddy road because it had become impassable for vehicles. I stayed (safely) in the center of that road as I looked wide-eyed at the natives around us. I was wondering if spears and witch doctors and shruken heads would soon appear. Instead, we saw people living off the land in extremely humble conditions. At some point, I realized the Fletchers were gone. They had wandered off the road into the bush, and asked a Ugandan to see inside his hut! Fear kept me on the road. Courage and curiosity gave them a fresh view.
After returning from Africa, the Fletchers decided it was time to shift gears. Instead of passively waiting for God to tell them exactly what to do next, they would try to connect the dots. They started thinking about what they were good at, and decided to put those gifts and talents to work for God. They knew they loved people, and were willing to serve. Having raised four great children, the Fletchers concluded that parenting was a strength and something they both enjoyed. So they began to look for opportunities to minister to children.
By an amazing series of circumstances and connections, the Fletchers discovered Eagle Ranch, a Christ-centered home in north Georgia for boys and girls in need of hope and healing. (www.EagleRanch.org) They applied to be houseparents, and were accepted! In just a few short months, Jim sold his ownership in the family business to his brother, and they moved their family to embark upon the adventure as house parents to middle-school aged boys.
Has it been easy? Not in the least! Has it been rewarding? Unquestionably, yes. And as they use their gifts and talents to invest in children, they are seeing beautiful changes in their own lives.
Did a mid-life crisis cause these changes? Not exactly. More like mid-life courage! Thanks, Jim and Jana, for the inspiration you provide to pursue pleasing God over staying comfortable.
Receive a regular dose of encouragement by signing up for the Leave Nothing Unsaid / Jody Noland newsletter!