Either or, and yet

sunset at Ala Moana parkI’ve lived most of my life as a black-and-white kinda guy. Good or bad. Right or wrong. I was raised that way. And it fit my personality just fine.

And then, some six or seven years ago, the shades of gray in the middle began to emerge. I thought the shift was a sign of maturity… or a more intentional prayer practice… or perhaps it came through the influence of some of the great authors I was reading, or the great preaching I was hearing. Probably all of the above.

I began to think: I’ve been wrong all my life. Very few issues are black-and-white. Nobody is all good or all bad. Few issues can be reduced to a simple declaration of right or wrong.

Recently, a new awareness has begun to emerge in my psyche: Those years of living in a black-and-white world were foundational and crucial to spiritual growth. They provided the “container” for who I am… and who I am becoming.

Richard Rohr has written extensively and well about this concept. He calls it “Second Half of Life” wisdom.

“Second half of life” wisdom requires prayer and discernment more than knee-jerk responses toward either conservative or liberal ends of the spectrum. You have a spectrum of responses now, and they are not all predictable, as is too often the case with most knee-jerk responses. Law is still necessary, of course, but it is not your guiding star, or even close. It has been wrong and cruel too many times. The Eight Beatitudes speak to you much more than the Ten Commandments as you grow older. Life is much more spacious now. The boundaries of the container have been enlarged. You are like an expandable suitcase, and you became so almost without your noticing. Now you are just here, and here holds more than enough.

 – From Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr, pp. 118-119

I’m not there yet. And I never will be. And that’s OK.

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