Growing in Christ: Week 1
Religion and various models of human development seem to suggest there are two major tasks for each human life. The first task is to build a strong “container” or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold. (Sunday)
I am convinced that much of our pastoral and practical confusion has emerged because we need to clarify the real differences, the needs, and the somewhat conflicting challenges of the two halves of our own lives. (Monday)
In the second half of life, we start to understand that life is not only about doing; it’s about being. (Tuesday)
If the agenda of the first half of life is social, meeting the demands and expectations our milieu asks of us, then the questions of the second half of life are spiritual, addressing the larger issue of meaning. —James Hollis (Wednesday)
The ego’s highest task is to go beyond itself into service, service to what is really desired by the soul. —James Hollis (Thursday)
Religion in the second half of life is finally not a moral matter; it’s a mystical matter. (Friday)
Practice: Discharging Our Loyal Soldier
A story from Japan at the close of World War II illustrates how we might support ourselves and others in transition to the second half of life. If you have ever been to Japan, you will know that its culture is rich in ritual, with a strong sense of the importance of symbol, aesthetics, and ceremony.
At the end of the war, some Japanese communities had the wisdom to understand that many of their returning soldiers were not prepared to reenter civil, peaceful society. The veterans’ only identity for their formative years had been as a “loyal soldier” to their country, but now they needed a broader identity.
So the communities created a ceremony whereby a soldier was publicly thanked and praised for their service to the people. After the soldier had been profusely honored, an elder would stand and announce with authority: “The war is now over! The community needs you to let go of what has served you and us well up to now. We now need you to return as a parent, a partner, a friend, a mentor—something beyond a soldier.”
I call this process “discharging your loyal soldier.” As Ken Wilber suggests, we need to “transcend and include” as we grow, recognizing the value of what has come before while shedding old skins and identities that no longer fit us.
With tenderness, notice how at various times in your life you’ve fixated on different priorities, different measures of right and wrong, different sources of meaning and belonging. Give thanks for the lessons you learned at each phase that helped you survive, succeed, and become who you are today. Ask yourself what beliefs you may be ready to lay to rest, ways of thinking and acting that no longer serve your maturing awareness of reality.
You might wish to explore your journey in one or more of these ways:
- Journal or write a poem.
- Draw, paint, sculpt, or create a collage.
- Find a piece of music that illustrates changing moods and move to it.
- Talk to a friend, spiritual director, or therapist.
- Design a simple ceremony to discharge your “loyal soldier.”
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 43-44.
For Further Study:
James Hollis, Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow Up (Gotham Books: 2005)
Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011)