In wrapping up this look at first- and second-half-of-life tasks, it is important to consider what second-half-of-life results look like. After building the ‘container’ to hold our identity and belief system about ourselves, there is often an event – a fall or failure – that brings us to the end of our ‘container’ resources. We are then ready to embark on the deeper journey of soulwork.

“In this second half of life, one has less and less need or interest in eliminating the negative or fearful, making again those old rash judgments, holding on to old hurts, or feeling any need to punish other people. Your superiority complexes have gradually departed in all directions, having shown themselves too many times to be useless, ego based, counterproductive, and often entirely wrong.

“By the second half of life, you have learned ever so slowly, and with much resistance, that most frontal attacks on evil just produce another kind of evil in yourself, along with a very inflated self-image to boot…Holier-than-thou people usually end of up holier then nobody.

“Daily life now requires prayer and discernment more than knee-jerk responses toward either the conservative or liberal end of the spectrum. You have a spectrum of responses now, and they are not all predictable…Life is much more spacious now, the boundaries of the container having been enlarged by the constant addition of new experiences and relationships…Now you are just here, and here holds more than enough. Such ‘hereness,’ however, has its own heft, authority, and influence. Just watch true elders sitting in any circle of conversation…When they speak, they need very few words to make their point…Second simplicity has its own kind of brightness and clarity, but much of it is expressed in nonverbal terms, and only when really needed.

“At this stage, I no longer have to prove that I or my group is the best, that my ethnicity is superior, that my religion is the only one that God loves, or that my role and place in society deserve superior treatment…Because [I] have built a good container, [I am] able to ‘contain’ more and more truth, more and more neighbors, more and broader vision, more and more of a mysterious and outpouring God.

“Just remember this: no one can keep you from the second half of your own life except yourself. Nothing can inhibit your second journey except your own lack of courage, patience, and imagination. Your second journey is all yours to walk or to avoid. My conviction is that some falling apart of the first journey is necessary for this to happen, so do not waste a moment of time lamenting poor parenting, lost job, failed relationship, physical handicap, gender identity, economic poverty, or even the tragedy of any kind of abuse. Pain is part of the deal.”*

By embracing all of the pieces we are handed, by allowing them to mix and mingle in the fertile soil of grace with an open heart, we will begin to experience a harvest of healing, wholeness and growth that is deeply and passionately satisfying.

Robert Browning aptly put it:
“Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in His hand
Who saith, ‘A whole I planned,
Youth shows but half; trust God: see all, nor be afraid!’”

Ann Halim,  Editor, eWeekend

*All quotes not referenced are from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. Emphasis by author.

Reprinted with permission