We spend the first third of our lives learning – not just our school lessons, but learning what we will need to navigate our place in the world. In these years, we acquire information and probe the accepted mores of our culture as we prepare to be productive citizens of society.
In the second third of our lives we are conscripted by duty and obligation – often joyfully so – as we raise children, work at our jobs, and pay the mortgage. We measure success – our own and that of others – in terms of accomplishments and rewards.
But in the last third of our lives we are invited to walk a deeper path as we participate in the full ripening of our souls. We are invited to travel lightly now, discarding all that weighs us down from our earlier lives and considering what seeds we will scatter for those who come after us. Like a householder taking old and new things out of his closet, we examine what has served us well and what we can dispose of. Now we travel with only the essentials as we seek to finally become that person God created us to be.
We have some work to do on this journey, but it will be joyful, and we travel in good company. Our years have taught us that always God’s spirit guides us and surrounds us. Our walking stick is grace – God’s favor toward us.
We now know that nothing of our lives has been wasted, but that all is for our benefit. We no longer strive for our own perfection, for we know that illusion is better replaced by humility.
This path we travel is not one of toil, but many of us will struggle with it – old habits can be hard to shed. So we gather some tools for our knapsacks and look for others who walk this same path. We listen for words from our guide and often find them: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age” (Matt 28:20).
The tasks of the wisdom years:
Doing our inner spiritual work.
Harvesting our histories.
Hallowing our diminishments.
Speaking our wisdom.
Offering our skills, gifts, and capabilities.
Passing on the blessing.
Facing our mortality.
Holding fast in hard times. (And helping others to do so.)
Reaching for joy and finding it.