Book Review: Becoming Sage
Michelle Van Loon’s Jewish heritage, spiritual hunger, and storyteller sensibilities have been informing her writing and shaping her faith journey since she came to Christ at the tail end of the Jesus Movement. She is the author of five books, including Born to Wander: Recovering the Value of Our Pilgrim Identity, If Only: Letting Go of Regret, and Moments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith. Michelle has been a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s women’s blog and In Touch Magazine. She is the co-founder of ThePerennialGen.com, a website for midlife women and men. She’s married to Bill and is a mother of three and a grandmother of two. Learn about her writing and speaking ministry by visiting her website, MichelleVanLoon.com.
Growing Old, Growing Sage
“It’s all downhill from here.”
Have you ever heard this quip? Though it can be used in a variety of contexts, one of its more frequent uses has to do with “middle age” and the years that follow. With aging, the thought is that our middle years are a sort of qualitative peak, with every year thereafter being a downhill slide toward our eventual confrontation with death. It’s a depressing and fallacious viewpoint.
Michelle Van Loon, in her latest book Becoming Sage: Cultivating Meaning, Purpose, and Spirituality in Midlife, sets out to help her readers reimagine what faithfulness and fruitfulness look like at midlife and beyond. She does this by posing and answering two very important questions:
1. What does it mean to become sage?
2. How can we cultivate spiritual maturity in the second half of life?
While Christian discipleship is often aimed at younger demographics, Van Loon argues that those entering midlife are ill-equipped for the seasons of life they’ll encounter “on the other side of the hill,” making it a doubly challenging time in the life of a follower of Jesus. And this is why she has written Becoming Sage, to help equip men and women for the road ahead.
Life is not all “downhill” after midlife. It can be an upward climb toward wise, fruitful living—Van Loon shows us how.
Cultivating Fruitfulness in Our Later Years
After defining spiritual maturity, which she uses interchangeably with the term “sage,” the author then spends the remainder of the book providing the reader with a blueprint for cultivating spiritual maturity in the second half of life. It is not a novel list of habits—there is very little new instruction here—but it is a needed list of reminders that orients the reader to the practices that will help “firm up” his/her spiritual roots. What’s unique about Van Loon’s angle in this section is the way she navigates the changes that inevitably come with this stage of life. So, not only does she advocate for certain habits, but she prepares her reader and disciples him/her through these inevitable changes. From church involvement to changing family and friend dynamics to body changes, finances, and emotional health, the author wades into difficult topics and offers the reader a profitable way forward.
If you’re someone, like me, who’s not far from this looming milestone, or if you’ve already reached it, Michelle Van Loon’s Becoming Sage may be a welcome resource for you. After all, she’s right, there’s not a wealth of resources aimed specifically at the inevitabilities that go hand-in-hand with aging. But it is precisely these inevitabilities that she addresses head-on, with the aim of Christian discipleship at the book’s core. Grab a copy and keep it on-hand, it’ll serve you well in midlife and beyond.
[I received this book free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]