The Two Halves of Life

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I’m greatly enjoying a book by Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, which holds the premise that life’s “necessary suffering” is not an obstacle to be surmounted, but a pathway to be journeyed, a pathway to the second half of life. In the first half of life, we are driven by our ego, our need to achieve, to build something for ourselves, to discover and be discovered. I would summarize, however, that in the second half, we are more propelled by empathy because we have tasted defeat. In the second half, we embrace a deep desire to join others in their joys and sufferings, a desire to see justice, but only through a lens of grace, a desire to be certain of less, tentative of more, and ever decreasing in our resistance to change.

As I absorb the many delineations of first vs. second-half-of-life relating, I see my old self as having operated out of many of the first-half-of-life issues, such as searching for and finding my identity. It’s with some apprehension that I proclaim I’m now fully embracing the second half of life, only because I know my ego would love nothing more than to convince me I’m better than “those people,” those still journeying through the first half of life. But, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the first half of life. In fact, we need the first half of life if the second half will ever be sustainable. We need the roots of our tree; we need motivation, achievements, suffering, winning, and especially failing. So, I haven’t become too entangled in the notion that I’m not right where I believe I am and right where I believe I should be. The second half of life has also come with a firm sense of acceptance, both of self and others, of our individual and collective experiences, a sense of belief in that thing called intuition, which the first half of life threatened to consume. I see second-half-of-life indicators in my life and the lives of some around me. I see it when a friend questions why she’s okay with the fact that human beings will sleep outside tonight, or when I question why I allowed the slightest bit of my initial outrage to wane after seeing impoverished children eating dirt cookies for sustenance. I see the second half of life emerging when a friend said that for her, getting older has meant accepting the parts of her that have been beneficial to others but detrimental to her and acknowledging that without being bitter about it. I see it in my life when I realize I still have anger for some of my first-half-of-life experiences, for the loss, for what was willfully destroyed and stolen, but that my anger isn’t vindictive; it’s redemptive. I see second-half-of-life living in a friend who recently prayed to become like a child, not for the purpose of shirking adult responsibilities, but for the purpose of loving with reckless abandon, for the purpose of wholeheartedly living out the beliefs we’ve collected throughout the first half of life.

I believe that in this second half of life, we begin to feel a righteous indignation for societal wrongs that we know we may never completely correct or even address in our lifetime, but we find it worth our tears, our anger, our voice, anyhow. In this half of life, I’d rather regret standing up at the wrong time than regret not standing up at all. I think it’s an impossible ideal to live life without regrets, but I’m rather determined to pursue life with such purpose that I prefer my regrets. All of these issues are merely foundational, though, merely questioning whether one is living from the first or second half of life. The book further discusses the unintentional, upward fall into the second half, and I look forward to the other directions it will carry my mind.
falling upward

The Two Halves of Life

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Preparing for the Storm

He will keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him.

Have you ever watched people prepare for an impending hurricane? If you live near coastal regions prone to such destructive weather, you are probably all too familiar with storm preparation. In fact, you have probably already weathered some storms and learned from your experiences. Some time ago, my daughter experienced a medical emergency that reminded me of how important it is to prepare for upcoming storms, even if we have successfully braved the tempests of the past.

When she was about 18 months old, my daughter had her first febrile seizure. This is a seizure due to a spiking temperature. I can say with confidence that I felt the Holy Spirit guide me to immediately rush her into the sink to cool her off. He calmed me as fears arose due to her limited responsiveness following her seizure. When my daughter was almost two, she again experienced a spike in her body temperature due to an ear infection, and again, she had a seizure. This time, I didn’t feel God’s presence as keenly as I did before. I didn’t hear His voice calming me as I did before. Instead, I felt distinctly alone, and this time, all I heard was deafening silence.

There was very little time to think, but I immediately began praying over my daughter and telling her she would be okay. I rushed her to the bathroom and lay her flat in the tub, cooling her with the running water. Those ten minutes felt like an eternity. As I prayed over my daughter and begged God to heal her and spare her life, I remember doubts creeping in. As her lips turned blue, I remember thinking, “There’s nothing I can do,” but that was far from true! I remembered God’s word tells us the prayer of faith will save the sick (James 5:15). True to His word, God’s Holy Spirit brought back to my remembrance the scriptures I needed to recall at just the right time (John 14:26). Thus, I continued to pray, in faith, for my daughter’s healing and protection, and I continued to tell her she would be okay.

The entire ordeal taught me the importance of hiding God’s word in my heart (Psalm 119:11) and being prepared before the storm hits. In the midst of the storm, there is very little time to think, very little time to grab your bible, and it is hardly the time to start learning to pray in faith. We can be sure the storms are coming, for God’s word declares that in this world we will have tribulation and He is a shelter in the storm (John 16:33; Isaiah 25:4). His word also tells us that when we hear His words and put them into practice, we are like a wise man who built his house on the rock, and like that wise man, we have to have that firm foundation in God’s word before the storms arise (Matthew 7:24-26).

Study to show yourself approved ~~~~~ + ~~~~~ Hide God’s Word in your heart

Garment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness

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I thought this is how it would look, but see the pic below.

I remember waking up one Thursday morning and feeling like the air around me was a thick, heavy, fog. It felt dark, despite the sunshine; I felt fatigued, despite a good night’s sleep. Before I could even rise completely out of the bed, it’s as if someone threw a cloak of unhappiness on me that shrouded me from head to toe. My brain is always thinking, and today, my thoughts were centered on only negativity.

“You’ll never get over your past.”

“You’ll never be good enough.”

“Your prayers haven’t changed a thing.”

“You talk of God’s promises, but look at how you’re still struggling, hoping for restoration.”

The accusation and condemnation couldn’t come fast enough. Admittedly, I listened to that voice for far too long, that day, and as I listened, I sunk even further into a pit of despair. But then I remembered my Father’s voice. I recalled how He speaks to me, how He takes great delight in me, quiets me with His love, and rejoices over me with singing (Zephaniah 3:17). Instantly, I knew: this was not Him! I sat at the edge of my bed and began to worship God and rebuke every negative thought that reared its head. I opened my mouth and said, “I WILL bless the lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” As I said that aloud, I was impressed to read further from His Word, so I opened my bible to Psalm 34 and continued along to verse 3: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” I stopped there and immediately recognized this as a call to corporate worship. I sent some text messages off to a few friends who called me back and worshiped God WITH me (praise God for His obedient servants). In no time, that heavy spirit was lifted and I was sharing with others how God picked me up out of the darkness. By the time I had recited verses 1-2 then read and obeyed verse 3, verse 4 was manifested in my life: “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Isaiah 61:1-4 is one of my favorite passages, for it encapsulates much of the vision I believe God has placed within me. One exchange offered there, is a “garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness,” and I believe it is up to us to make that exchange. When you’re feeling down, when that spirit of heaviness is cloaked about you, make the exchange. Don a spirit of praise, instead. You will have no choice but to feel God’s presence, for His Word declares that He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3 KJV). He’s daring us to praise Him and see if He won’t show up and dwell among us. I’ve proven His Word to be true. I put on that garment of praise and the heavy spirit had to flee, for there was no room for darkness in His light! I’ll leave you with this prayer a friend recently shared with me:

“May His still, small voice become the loudest voice you hear.”

Wear your praise! This is how it looks!

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