Most of us dread aging. Many of us do all we can to delay it. At some point we realize there's no avoiding it if we keep waking up in the morning. And maybe at some point we see what a gift that is! Still, it can be frustrating. Our bodies won't do what we used to do. More hurts have accumulated in our hearts making us wary or hardened. Sitting and complaining seems way more attractive than taking responsibility for and getting involved in creating our own happiness. Could it be that we are sliding into Round Two?
That's not what Brennan Manning calls it but it's what he writes about in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel. He names it the "second journey." Manning borrowed this from the work of Gerald O'Collins published four decades ago. He describes it like this: "A thirty-five-year-old wife learns of her husband's infidelity. A forty-year-old company director finds that making money suddenly seems absurd. A forty-five-year-old journalist gets smashed up in a car accident. However it happens, such people feel confused and even lost. They can no longer keep life in working order. They are dragged away from chosen and cherished patterns to face strange crises... The second journey begins when we know we cannot live the afternoon of life according to the morning program."
All this may sound rather dismal, but Manning argues that valuable wisdom is gained through such life-altering experiences. He says it is the wisdom of a person "who has regained equilibrium, stabilized, and found fresh purpose and new dreams. It is a wisdom that gives some things up, lets some things die, and accepts human limitations. It is a wisdom that has faced the pain caused by parents, spouses, friends, colleagues, business associates, and has truly forgiven them and acknowledged with unexpected compassion that these people are neither angels nor devils, but only human."
Once we find ourselves in the "afternoon of life," we have the opportunity to view our lives as broken and less valuable or as reformed and beautiful. There's something to be said about having dreams dissipate but finding the courage to come up with new ones! There's much to celebrate about discovering that our shattered selves are actually stronger than if we had remained untried. And we just might see a new purpose in what Carol Hamblet Adams describes in My Beautiful Broken Shell, "Broken shells inspire others and demonstrate the will to go on in a way that no perfect shell could ever do."
As long as we keep waking up and when we slide into our second journey, we may be ever thankful that in being created human our Creator never expects us to be other than. Perhaps the greatest gift of Round Two is in being released from "chosen and cherished patterns" that were no longer leading us into fullness of life! If so, let's rejoice as we say goodbye to the morning program!