Proper 22A’23 “Saul’s Mid-life Crisis”
8 October 2023
Philippians 3.4b-14
St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Rev. Carey Stone <+>

“The Glory of God is a human being, fully alive:” In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. – from Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, 3rd cen.


It starts early in our lives, in fact it starts within the first minutes of our lives; after having a good cry, we are weighed and measured, the bottoms of both feet are inked and stamped, and a metric process begins that will continue on through most of our lives. The milestones of growth, in length, weight, and development are carefully noted and documented. In the first couple of years our development is monitored, to tell whether we crawled, walked, and talked “on time” or were we “delayed.” Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was credited with coining the phrase, “the two halves of life.”

The first half of life we spend developing and achieving milestones, and acquiring education, jobs and careers, spouses and partners, children, and then managing all of our possessions and relationships. We develop our identities, and our egos fully form. All of these things are good and necessary for getting us ready to navigate in the world and for all that comes next.

One day we wake up and realize – ‘OMG, I’m in the middle of my life! Where has the time gone!’ If you happen to be parents in this stage of the journey you discover that the days are long but the years are short!  My how quickly children grow up. Time starts to pick up speed and we realize none of us will live forever. As a fully grown adult we become either surprised or horrified that we have ‘turned into our parents!’ In careers people that have climbed the ladder may be at or near the top only to discover that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall. This can all be disillusioning and call into question the choices we’ve made during the first half of life and second guess ourselves. At this stage we discover what drives some to buy red sports cars, dye their hair, get plastic surgery, and spend more money on vitamins cosmetics, and Botox. You find that your seeing doctors a bit more often for yourself, rather than a pediatrician for your children. Spiritual crises can also arise leaving us with more doubts than answers.

Carl Jung sums up one of the main conclusions’ folks [if their fortunate enough] come to during this stage: “One cannot live the afternoon of their life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening…”[1]

One such person, was a man by the name of Saul who was on his way to Damascus, Syria, where upon arrival he planned to hunt down and capture people of the Way called Christians and take them back to Jerusalem to stand trial, but God had other plans. Unbeknownst to Saul, his ego centered life that was outwardly focused on putting his best religious foot forward was inwardly wearing thin.

On his way to Damascus– yeah, that’s right on “his way” he had a true encounter with the resurrected Christ. He was literally blinded by the light, knocked off his horse and found himself in the dark and heard a voice say: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He asks “Who are you, Lord?” The Voice answers: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”[2] His ego had met its ‘Waterloo’ and now he was totally dependent on God, the living Christ and the others around him for his next steps. Carl Jung describes life experiences like Saul was having when he wrote: “Inevitably you discover, often through failure, or a significant loss, that your conscious [ego-centric] self is not all of you, but only the acceptable you. You will find your real purpose and identity at a much deeper level than the positive image you present to the world.”[3]

While in Damascus he meets a believer in Christ who prays for him to receive his sight. His vision is restored and he is given a new name – Paul reflecting his new identity and purpose as a follower of the Christ and he finds his life’s purpose. He happened to be 30 years old and would live to be around 60 – so Saul was at mid-life at the beginning of the second half of his life and what had gotten him through the first half was not going to be sufficient to get Paul through the second half.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he describes his former ego-centric life when he was called Saul: “If anyone has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more, a Hebrew born of Hebrews, as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the Church, as to righteousness under the law, blameless…” The ego centered Saul had trusted in outward things: his pedigree, his position, and his own power to keep the law. But when he meets Christ on the road it marks the end of Saul and the new begging for Paul, a real death blow to his ego and to his false self. In his letter he continues: “Yet whatever gains I had; these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, [I think the language of the King James version puts a bit plainer: I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as DUNG] in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.” The purpose of the ego is transformed from being the center of our universe to being a container that holds our True selves where we become temples of the Holy Spirit, trusting in the righteousness that is a gift from God.

The second half of life begins when we somehow, by God’s grace, arrive at a place where we must find our truest identity and on-going purpose in something beneath the surface of our pedigree, position, or power, our level of education, money, or physical health and beauty. We have to change our tune from: “anything you can do I can do better…” to “I once was lost but now I’m found was blind but now I see.”

This doesn’t mean that all the milestones we’ve achieved, the possessions and powers we’ve acquired, or the influential people we’ve relied upon are all now bad, it simply means they aren’t sufficient to carry us through the second half of our lives. Again St. Paul says it best: “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Let us pray:

O God who has made our life’s journey in three parts with a beginning, a middle, and an end: Guide us from achieving to receiving a righteousness that only comes from you and that will lead us to the unfolding of our true selves, that we may more fully reflect your image, and glorify your holy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.




[1] C. G. Jung, The Structure and Dynamics of the Psyche (Routledge and Kegan Paul: 1960), 399

[2] See the book of Acts, chapter 9

[3] Richard Rohr,