By Rev. Jim Innes
“As the wheel inevitably turns, how will we live?”
We enter the third chapter of life somewhat unconsciously. Almost naturally sidestepping any thought of our diminishing life span. Except, of course, those pesky birthdays that we’d sooner forget than celebrate.
When approaching this third chapter, marked by the years between fifty and seventy-five, the world tends to get a little smaller. There is the loss of people we love, the loss of our power in the working world, the loss of predictable health, and the loss of dreams once held so importantly. These are but a few grief-related issues.
Aging can, at times, feel bleak and, for some, depressing and laborious. Nonetheless, as suggested by renowned Harvard researcher, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, “We must develop a compelling vision of later life: one that does not assume a trajectory of decline after fifty, but one that recognizes it as a time of change, growth, and new learning; a time when ‘our courage gives us hope.'”
As I see it, this third chapter of life presents us with unprecedented potential for being fully alive. It is rich with hard-earned wisdom and well-earned compassion. And, as we walk deeper into this third chapter, the louder we hear the call to live congruently with our true self.
Sparrow Heart, a gifted elder, said it well, “As the body and ego diminish, Soul and Spirit can be embodied as master and sage, generating and gifting active wisdom and compassion to a yearning world. The struggles of a lifetime may recede, and our true nature as conscious and loving beings is revealed to us.”
In the third chapter, life is no longer about accumulation and drive…but instead, letting go and humility. On this path, we tend to enter grief willingly. Knowing that joy waits patiently on the other side. A process that may have, in the early years of our life, been overshadowed, or swallowed up, by more energetic tasking… and the avoidance of any form of death.
It has been my experience that the “diminishing” body and ego accompanies an urge to be of service. Not that being of service isn’t a choice made earlier in life, but now, in the third chapter, the act becomes increasingly organic. And as organic, less ritualized and more spontaneous.
Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot puts it this way, “This third chapter is a stage in life when the traditional norms, rules, and rituals of our careers seem less encompassing and restrictive.” And in her book, Third Chapter, she gives many examples of post-career men and women flowing into these latter years with an inspiring vision of how to put giving at the center of living.
As the wheel inevitably turns, we can find ourselves living a truly connected lifestyle; connected to ourselves, our friends, our community, and our God. There is no stop to the process of becoming more of who we are meant to be. And the third chapter can be an exciting ride to new heights of creative living.
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.
(Featured photo: Diana Spatariu/Unsplash)