ON MY THIRD LIFE

The glory of young men is their strength,
gray hair the splendor of the old. Prov. 20:29

“I’m going to dye my hair. I think I’ll go with blonde, since that’s what it was when I was a little guy.”

After they finished laughing, my wife and daughter said, “No! You have beautiful grey hair.” And “What’s the matter? Oh, it happened again didn’t it?”

“Yeah, the lady at Bojangles gave me a Senior Discount, and she didn’t even card me!”

On the bright side, at least I still have most of my hair, which is more than I can say for some of my friends. And the episode made me think again of what it’s like to be on my third life.

Before you assume that I’ve adopted some form of Hinduism, allow me to explain. Think of your first twenty years or so as your first life. You have time to grow up, learn the basics, develop a few skills, maybe get some education and a driver’s license, but that’s about it.

Your second life happens between about twenty and forty. You finish your formal education, get married, and start a career, maybe two or three. You add children to the mix, a home, a mortgage, some pets, join a church or social or professional organizations. The education, career, and marriage choices you made in your teens and twenties reveal their inherent opportunities and limits. You are either happy or frustrated with them. If you’re happy, you buy life insurance. If you’re frustrated you get divorced.

If you are a winner on the Life Insurance Actuarial Lottery your third life runs from fortyish through sixtyish. Life speeds up as your body slows down. The kids you coached in soccer are now the nurses taking care of you during the appendectomy. You are making more money than you were in your twenties but most of it is obligated and doesn’t last long in your wallet. You are reaping the harvest, whether good or bad, of the choices you made and the habits you developed in your first and second lives.

But something else is happening too, a strange sense of detachment, coupled with a bit of Déjà vu. You recognize yourself and some of your friends in children on their first lives, even more in the adults on their second. Patterns emerge, predictable cycles born of similar circumstances intersecting unconscious habits of heart and mind, compounded by the sin nature or else corrected by the Living Spirit. Often it speeds by like a rain-flooded stream, but you can see it, you can see the patterns.

That’s where we third-lifers become useful to the first and seconds. We can help them see the patterns, find the fault-lines, identify the Spirit’s path, and choose carefully. It isn’t because we’re better educated, or more intelligent. It’s just because we’ve lived with Christ long enough for our hair to turn gray.

So, to those of you on your third (or fourth, or fifth!) life I say: Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes or to give God glory where he showed you how to succeed. And to those on your first or second, don’t be too proud to ask and listen.

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