The two halves of life

Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward has got me thinking in new ways about the two halves of life and my own spiritual path and development. Most religious history has been focussed in the creation and maintenance of first-half-of-life issues: the concerns of identity, security, and sexuality and gender. We need boundaries, identity, safety and some order and consistency to get started personally and culturally.

A preoccupation with order, control, safety, pleasure and certitude means that a high percentage of people never get to explore more deeply the contents of their own lives.

Second-half-of-life issues are concerned with the birth of God in the soul, with the need to deepen and grow in “wisdom, age, and grace” (Luke 2.52), becoming a truly adult believer, enlightened and psychologically mature, forgiving, compassionate and radically inclusive.

In truth, these are not new ways of thinking for me but ways I intuited from an early age. What’s new is the confirmation by a Roman Catholic Franciscan with clout of thoughts long held.

While trying desperately not to be judgmental, I can’t help thinking that those who repeatedly claim to be “orthodox, traditional, Bible-based” and therefore, “proper” as opposed to improper or heretical, are defensive and conservative, whereas the “improper” (like me) tend to be more open, free, adventurous explorers. Richard Rohr has helped me see that you can’t move to the second, more creative phase of life unless you have lived through, and integrated, the first phase in which rules, boundaries and discipline are essential in laying the foundations of a healthy personality.

We are living at a time when people who are emotionally and spiritually very immature are dominant in the financial world and in sections of the media, taking risks with other people’s money and lives.

Jesus was clearly, although young in age, a free spirit, an adventurous explorer and risk-taker. The development of new, creative movements in the Church today, following Jesus’ example, is constrained by groups and individuals who maintain a dualistic worldview, are conservative and defensive against change, and seem to remain in a comparatively immature emotional and spiritual frame of mind.

Many conservatives who oppose a change in the status of women and LGB&T people in the Church are highly intelligent. However, Richard Rohr might suggest that in terms of second-half-of-life qualities, they are stuck in a defensive mode, campaigning to maintain strict adherence to their orthodox values and teaching (which history, as Tina commented yesterday, shows to be anything but the case).


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