September 28, 2022
A Note from Pastor April
When it rolled around two weeks ago, I didn’t expect this birthday to be as hard as it was.
I’m halfway through my 40s… halfway to 90.
It wasn’t so much that I was feeling old… (After all, 45 is the new 35 or something?)
Instead, I was pondering the reality that there’s a good chance I’ve already lived more than half of my life.
In one of my favorite Richard Rohr books, Falling Upward, he talks about the first half of life and the second half of life.
In essence, the first half of our life is spent building a container. The container for our life, which you could also call our ego, is constructed from our sense of identity, importance, and security. This is essential work that we all must do.
Inevitably, the challenges, failures, struggles, and losses in life reveal to us that what we’ve built doesn’t give us what we thought it might. We learn that what we thought was “us” was really just the container.
Living into our Deeper Purpose
This realization shifts us toward the second half of life… where we can learn to live into our deeper purpose, no longer needing the ego to drive the ship.
This, of course, takes some time. The transition is slow and often messy.
Some people arrive at the second half of their life earlier than others. Some people never make the transition. It isn’t so much about your age, but about your willingness to move into a season of beginning again.
I’d say much of the “second half” of my life began in the last decade, as my sense of being a competent, put-together parent and leader began to unravel. By the time I arrived at the Living School to study with Richard Rohr in 2017, I was struggling to say the least.
Clinging to my carefully constructed container with everything I had, I felt angry and terrified about the possibility that what I had constructed was only serving to cover over my desperate need to be loved and to belong. What did that leave me with?
There was a lot of healing during those two years, as I learned to accept these parts of myself and make space for what was arising.
One of the most important concepts I learned during this season was the idea of having a BEGINNER’S MIND, a phrase that Richard borrows from Zen Buddhism.
Beginner’s Mind starts with the posture of acknowledging all that we DO NOT know and understand, and taking on the mind of a beginner, as perhaps the most crucial step toward wisdom.
With a beginner’s mind our most urgent need is to remain open… so we can be present instead of critical.
“Ignorance does not result from what we don’t know.
Ignorance results from what we THINK we DO know.”
What I think I was realizing on my birthday two weeks ago is that even though there’s been a lot of growth and hard work over these past 5-10 years, I feel like a beginner most days. I still feel like there is so much that I don’t know.
According to Richard and other wisdom teachers, that means I’m on the right track!
But the reality is harder.
Being a beginner requires vulnerability.
It means I need to ask for help. A lot of it.
It means I’m going to mess this up. Often.
It means I’m going to have to get comfortable with this sense of not knowing.
Of being a beginner.
Here I am, possibly halfway through my life, and what I’m working on most is…
Learning how to really listen.
Learning how to admit my failures.
Learning how to be a beginner.
Once I could finally name this and, yes, cry a bit about how hard it can be some days, I felt a little better.
I looked up to find this picture of me from childhood. I keep it on my shelf next to my prayer spot because it makes me smile.
As I looked at this younger version of myself, I was reminded that I have a lot of years of experience of being a beginner.
I was also reminded that sometimes being a beginner can be joyful. (Like taking your friend for a ride on your Strawberry Shortcake tricycle!)
Taking in the new and letting go of what no longer needs to be carried isn’t always a burden. Sometimes it’s the very fuel that makes us feel most alive.
So, if you see me smiling at myself in this next year, it might be just a moment of remembering that I’m a total beginner.
And it’s completely OK!
Here’s to the next 45!
The Rev. April Blaine
614.876.2403 (church office)