A milestone birthday tends to stir thinking, and here at the cusp of what can reasonably be called my third half; my milestone-birthday thinking stirs up a crashing wave of gratitude. I handed God my second half and he handed back to me the best half of my life, custom fit to my personality, skills, proclivities and loves. No, I don’t deserve it. And yes, the offer comes standard in his grace. And no, that second-half grace doesn’t just happen, which is why Halftime, the organization formed in 1998, and why getting to even one person’s Ephesians 2:10 calling turns out to be a group project.
If you’re facing your second half, if you’re well into it or suspect you’ll have one, good news: the outlook is rich. In fact, from this elevation on the ascent, I can name seven good reasons why your second half is everything your first half was made for.
1. In your second half, you’re more focused, less likely to drift off course. If you can picture your needs in life as four concentric circles, the circle furthest out is the need to make money and spend it. One circle in, is accomplishments, your need to achieve. Next in: relational needs met by spouse, children and close family or friends. The inner circle is your transcendent needs, what Jesus referred to as “bread of life” and “living water.” You may have spent your first half camped mainly in the two outer circles but your second half invites you to new balance, a keener sense of what falls to the margins and what stays in the center.
2. In your second half, at last, you live out your own agenda. In our life’s first half, we get a job and put to work the skills that, in most cases, we paid to learn in college. True, you need to make a living, but too often someone else’s idea of what it takes to do that. Between duty, which is real, and desire, no less real, a still small voice is saying to you, “I had more than this in mind.” And what comes to my mind is super lawyer, Charlene Kalebic in Chicago, who negotiated office hours with her high-powered law firm that allows her also to design a unique collection of poems and framed blessings. That second-half agenda is hers.
3. In your second half, you gain control of your life. If you’re already in your second half, you know the pleasure of that two-letter word n-o. In your first half, it came with more difficulty because you were less sure where to stake your firmest yes. In your first half, your many options all looked good, and were good, but not all deserved your best. To know your mainspring and to fix your energies on your capital-M Mission-that’s gaining life control. Jerry Reid told CBS News that he enrolled in college at the age of 66, receiving his bachelor’s degree this spring at 70. “I have become the man that I always wanted to be,” the triumphant new graduate said.
4. By your second half, you have resources. By the fourth and fifth decades, most of us have built up reserves, and not just monetarily. Our knowledge base is wide and deep; we have a network and it can hum. We know when we’re working harder vs. working smarter. If life is a car, in our second half that car has speed, traction, fuel and handling. Some days we’re struck by how all those features perform in concert, and this period in our lives can be wildly effective.
5. Your second half is a new slate-a second beginning. Our parents retired at 65, and their 70s featured orthopedic shoes and hot water bottles. The good news/bad news in 2014 is that a 55-year-old “retiree” faces easily another 30 years, most in good health with an active mind and the means to grow and go and serve. If you’ve ever ruminated on what you would do if you were just starting out again you may have a chance to apply some of that life wisdom, and what a ticket.
6. By your second half, you can play through the pain. Hurtful events, an unkindness or a setback that might have staggered you in your first half have lost their knockout punch. Mentally, spiritually, you’re tougher. The NFL keeps a statistic known as YAC-yards after contact, how far a running back covers after he’s hit. One thing we know in our 50s that we didn’t know in our 20s is that we can take a hit and keep pushing. That second-half knowledge is a tremendous comfort and asset.
7. By your second half, you know something about grace. Our 20s and 30s impose a strong sense of having to prove ourselves. By our 40s and 50s, with evidence of what we can do, we’re less fearful of what we can’t. That’s part of the grace. Here’s a question: On a scale of 1-100, with 100 being perfection, where would you place yourself? Where would you place an axe murderer? A saint? All right, say you rank Mother Teresa at 90-95 and the axe murderer at 8 or 10. (He’s bound to have picked up litter sometime.) You yourself fall somewhere between. Yet each person on that scale receives the same gift known as grace. As the New Testament explains it, between you and whatever it takes to rank 100, grace fills the measure.
So What About You?
If you’re in your second half-happy in the business of significance and surrender over success-you must think about what makes this part of your life better than the first. Help me expand my list of seven reasons. Tell me why your second half, and the idea of meaning over money, trumps your first.