Someone just sent me a questionnaire via email. It was one of those email blasts sent to an undisclosed number of recipients that I frequently don't bother to open. If they're jokes, they're rarely funny and besides, some of us actually use our computers for work!
But this one intrigued me. It offered a spiritual check-up, an accounting of how I was doing spiritually as opposed to physically. (It didn't mention diets or anti-aging creams anywhere!)
We spend so much time concerned with our physical well-being and often much less on the part that ultimately endures, our spiritual selves.
Ironically, one of the questions was "Are you tired?" Hello! Is the sky blue? Of course, I'm tired. I think being tired is the price we pay for having a (hopefully) productive life. Being tired physically is not so bad (unless taken to the extreme) once you accept it. If we expect more sleep, if we tell ourselves that we need more sleep, then we will walk around frustrated...and tired. But if we just recognize it as an integral part of the human condition, it will allow us to walk around motivated...and tired.
But the question actually had two parts. Part A (once a multiple choice test taker, always a multiple choice test taker) was about physical exhaustion. Part B was actually more interesting. And more telling: Am I tired spiritually?
What could this question mean? Have I worked hard at growing and now I want to coast? Have I decided that learning Torah is too much effort and I just want to curl up with the latest O magazine? Have I lost the spark and drive I once had?
As we get older (my voice creaks as I say this and I feel compelled to pepper my sentences with phrases like "young whippersnapper") we begin to see that life is a lot more complicated than we originally thought. In the absolute certainty of youth, we thought that if we lined up the numbers correctly, everything would fall into place.
But the world doesn't work that way and there are many complex factors at play. A + B does not always = C. (Or, as my husband is fond of saying, "The Almighty is not a Coke machine.)
The challenge of middle age (dare I say those words?) is to maintain the idealism and drive of youth even after it has been tampered by the realities of daily existence.
Yes we still need to learn and grow even when there is a mortgage to pay and school tuition to tend to. In fact, we need it even more given the level and magnitude of our distractions.
Yes we need to grow in our marriage even as our spouse provides us with increasing challenges(!) and we're so busy working on that mortgage and school tuition.
Now is the time to put the wisdom of our experience to good use (those wrinkles have to be worth something!).
Yes we need to grow in our parenting even as our patience is tried by homework and orthodontist appointments, by adolescence and kids getting married.
Our spiritual lives take precedence over our physical needs, yet we usually behave as it the opposite were true. Or we're often too worn out to notice or care.
It's easy to focus on growing when you're young, when you have minimal responsibilities, when you haven't tried and failed, when your challenges have been few and easy.
It's much harder as an adult and all too easy to ignore. But it's much more necessary as well.
This is not the time to be tired spiritually. It's the time to wake up. It's the time to accomplish. It's the time to put the wisdom of our experience to good use (those wrinkles have to be worth something!).
Many baby boomers start new exercise programs to maintain their physical health as they begin to age. Their doctors advise, "It's never too late."
We can start spiritual exercise programs as well. And take their doctor's advice. We may have to accommodate to a life of physical exhaustion but one of spiritual weariness is not living at all.