The drive to excel is not wrong, until it is. What helps us at one time, hurts us in another. Different life stages require different speeds and different approaches.

We grow and develop over a lifetime, each stage successively building on the previous stage while becoming something new in the process. Richard Rohr, in his book, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, says that life is lived in two halves, the first half spent in building a strong container for successful living, things such as: establishing an identity, a home, relationships, security, career. That’s as far as many of us get, he says. We remain stymied in first half of life occupations. Most of us need to be pushed and pulled into second half life, where we are forced to deal with the contents of our container, things such as: motives, secrets, attitudes, and perspectives. If we want to grow as leaders, we will face the crucible of second half challenges.

Janet Hagberg and Robert Guelich in their book, The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith, describe a similar pattern of growth through six stages of spiritual development. The first stages are ones in which we pursue productive spirituality: growth in discipleship and stewardship of gifts and service. The latter stages move us into what they call “an outward journey of love” where the emphasis is not on how much we can do but how well we love. Not everyone gets to that stage, they contend. Why? Because in order to move from productive faith to the outward journey of love we will first need to go through an inward journey. In this journey we encounter loss of certainty, lack of answers, well fed egos, suppressed emotions and untended wounds. This threshold time between the first and second half of life can be so difficult for many of us that it pushes us to “the wall,” a place they describe as where God’s will meets our will.1 If we want to grow as leaders, we will face the crucible of inward journey challenges.

In 2007 I resigned from Frontiers, a mission agency I had been a part of for 30 years. I contributed all my energy towards making Frontiers the “go to” mission. Its success meant my success. I was building my container. My years with Frontiers gave me credibility, stability, purpose and recognition. I was a leader others looked up to. Now I was going to walk away from all that? And face what exactly?

An acquaintance asked me how I felt after I resigned. My reply, “Like one of my limbs has been amputated.” Then why go through it, he asked? Because I need to. Because while I am good at activity, I need to slow down so I can move into adventure. Because while I say I love God and others, I don’t know if I really do. And in order to move into that future, I need to step off the leadership elevator of success to look at my unresolved hurts, nagging questions, and uneasy faith.

My resignation from Frontiers was a significant threshold for me. In this threshold I had to face who I was in order to move into life choices that would more authentically express who I wanted to be. I had to leave behind a form of spiritual zeal that, to quote Eugene Peterson, “is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.”2 In order to do this I had to experience an uncomfortable

1 One other book that speaks to life changes from a distinctly woman’s perspective is Dale Hanson Bourke’s Second Calling: Passion for the Rest of Your Life, 2006.
2 The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction, Eugene Peterson, p. 49 (1993).