Don’t burn your diary

diaryAs a teenager, I kept a diary. Years later, in my 20s, I discovered my volumes in a box, reread some of them and after deciding they were NOT something I wanted to share with my children or anyone at all someday, I burned them. (This was quite wrong of me, I know…)

I was ashamed at the immaturity and teenage self-obsession I saw reflected in my words. (Was I interested in anything other than boys?)

Now, those of you on Facebook will be familiar with the Memories function, where Facebook surprises you with a snapshot of your own words from a year ago, or three or five.

And again, I’ve found myself cringing. Did I really say THAT? Why didn’t I see then that I was totally posturing?

Ah, the beauty of the journey.

The wonderful part is that I couldn’t have skipped any of those parts of my development if I’d tried.

In his not-to-be-missed book Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, Father Richard Rohr humbly demonstrates the beauty of the second half of life — where we stop posturing, judging, and trying to prove that we have life and God all figured out — and stresses the fact that this second half can only follow the years spent in the first half of life.

Where we do posture about like peacocks much of the time, patting ourselves on the backs for not being like those others, only accepting as friends those who are like us, and believing we have the truth about God tied up neatly in a box.

While some people never mature into the second half of life, remaining harsh, smugly self-satisfied, excluding and judgmental until the day they die, if love is really our goal, in time we will mature into the second half of life.

At the end of his wonderful series on the Enneagram — what it has to tell us about ourselves and also our false “shadow selves” — Richard Rohr highlighted the difference between the first and second halves of life by sharing the following (if you are familiar with the Enneagram, you will see each of the nine types reflected in order).

Brother Joseph Schmidt shared with us this paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (original author unknown). I invite you to read these statements and see yourself in them. Only when we face and embrace our false self with humility can we begin moving toward freedom and wholeness, toward being Love.

• If I live my life to perfection, doing what is right and good on behalf of others, but act with compulsion and without love, then I am nothing at all. (Ones – Reformers)

• If I take care of the needs of everybody in the world, especially the poor, because of my own need to help, but am without love even for myself, then I am nothing at all. (Twos – Helpers)

• If I am efficient and successful in all that I do for the sake of justice, but act out of drivenness and without love, then I am nothing at all. (Threes – Achievers)

• If I am cultured and refined, and in touch with the pain of existence, but am absent from the pain of persons in the present moment who need my empathy; and if I act without love and compassion, then I am nothing at all. (Fours – Individualists)

• If I have the gifts of wisdom, insight, and understanding, but am not engaged with those around me in the present moment and am without a spirit of compassion and love, then I am nothing at all. (Fives – Investigators)

• If I am faithful, loyal, and obedient, and never deviate from the law, but am judgmental and blaming, and am without love, then I am nothing at all. (Sixes – Loyalists)

• If I live in a pain-free world of dreams and plans, enjoying optimism and pleasurable options, but am not addressing present problems and am avoiding people in actual distress and am without love, then I am nothing at all. (Sevens – Enthusiasts)

• If I am strong and powerful, but lose my best self in a spirit of resentment, retaliation, and vindictiveness, and know nothing of the vulnerability of love, then I am nothing at all. (Eights – Challengers)

• If I am settled and accommodating, holding onto a sense of distance and calm, but am not journeying inward to know and appreciate my weaknesses and gifts, and am neglecting my own legitimate calling to love myself, then I am nothing at all. (Nines – Peacemakers)

This is the first and second halves of life in action.

It’s easy to skim through a list like this, but I hope you’ll take the time to read through it mindfully. I can see times in my (all too recent) past where I have behaved in some of the above ways. Years from now, I have no doubt that I will look back on myself at some more of the same at this stage in my life.

But awareness is the first critical step.

It is an unfortunate thing indeed to remain in the first half of life even as a mature person. My hopeful belief is that people who do so will, like all people, get there in the end, whether in this life or the next. But just like those who close their eyes entirely to the reality of Triune God in this life, how very much, in this life, they miss!

Freedom from fear. The true joy that comes from knowing that God delights in our humanity and patiently encourages us along the way to maturity, just as a loving parent encourages her child. The true rest that comes from deeply seeing that it is not about our performance, and from instead relaxing and leaning into him 100%.

Embrace your humanity and the humanity of others, just as Jesus does. There is so much in creation to be savoured and enjoyed along the road.

Be gentle with your former self and with all people, wherever they may be in their journeys. Indeed a hallmark of inhabiting the second half of one’s life is the ability to look back at one’s former self and at those walking segments of the journey that we once did with compassion and genuine love, and without criticism and judgement.

And don’t burn your diary. Your past contains many indispensable pieces of the puzzle that will one day form a beautiful whole.

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?

~ “The Summer Day,” by Mary Oliver.

This is your one wild and precious life.

~ by Jeannine Buntrock

* Richard Rohr’s recent series on how the Enneagram relates to spirituality, and much,  much more from this wonderful teacher, can be found at the Center for Action and Contemplation.

1 comment so far

  1. Pat on

    EXCELLENT!!! AS He says, “Everything Belongs” :):)

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