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hope to lose

In Rohr’s audio seminar called, A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, he mentions an encounter between Kazantzakis and an old monk. Kazantzakis asked him, “Do you still wrestle with the devil?” The monk replied, “No. I’ve grown old. The devil has grown old. Neither one has the strength for the conflict. Now I wrestle with God.” Kazantzakis, “You wrestle with God? Do you hope to win?” Monk, “No. I hope to lose.”

What a strange thought to consider. This little dialogue is pretty telling of my life. I started to break free from the first half of life spirituality when I was 43 years old. There was an extended wilderness period that followed, but I didn’t really start exploring second half energy until I hit age 50.

I did my stint to attack the gates of hell, while keeping everyone posted on their hot sins and redundant failures. Much like those poor Pharisees, I thought I was keeping the law, not realizing that it was designed only to bring frustration and fatigue. Why? You can’t keep it. It’s that simple. Although somewhat versed and steeped in scriptural knowledge, God was in front of me the whole time—and I couldn’t always see it. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

The old monk was right. Loss is the great teacher. But, you can’t see it if you view the gospel and kingdom reality through the lens of our needing to win a contest. That’s the first half of life spirituality, and it is understandable and kind of necessary for building containers and foundations. But, Rohr suggests that is a great way to start, yet a horrible way to finish.  Old men who are still building containers made of haughty attitudes, religious platitudes, and unwavering certitudes, have not made the transition.  Life is teaching them, and they’ve yet to see the value of their growth in decline.

A second half spirituality takes all the confusion and disappointment of life, and continues to trust that victory happens despite the fact we didn’t get our way.  God might actually have won, and we’re good and in agreement with that, even though we might lose something we care about.

open-palmsI know this is already long, and I apologize, but I want you to think about what I’m going to share with you now. In that tape series previously mentioned, Paula D’Arcy tells about her meeting with Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.   Paula was 27 years old when a drunk driver ran into the car her husband was driving. She lost a husband and her 2 year-old daughter in that accident. The waves of grief were devastating. A debilitating shadow that refused to withdraw.   A friend arranged for her to meet the aged Dr. Peale in hopes that he might offer a few wise words of comfort.

What Paula expected was quite different from the reality.   She was braced for preacher guy to produce a huge Bible, snappy-sappy quotes and quips, with certain answers that solved all her questions. Dr. Peale began their meeting with the last thing she expected, “Tell me your story.”   She hadn’t ever really told the story before, so she poured it out. The tears were immeasurable.   Dr. Peale never interrupted. He cried when she cried. He reached out and took her hand several times.

After she told the story, Dr. Peale said, “Young woman, you’ve got a huge challenge in front of you.” She asked what that might be. “Discovering the purpose of life—your life.” Paula shot back, “I lost the purpose of my life when my husband and my daughter were killed.” Paula reports that Dr. Peale leaned deeply into her, just inches from her eyes, and said “You lost the purpose you wanted, but there is another purpose in life.”

That was it. He didn’t give her guidance on where to find that purpose. There were no more certainties or absolutes. It was a second half of life statement that embraced the mystery that must be played out through a lifetime. He could see that Paula wasn’t in the place where theology would sort it out for her. She was in the place of pain. He met her in that pain with wisdom.

Paula asked him how could he be so sure of that. He said, “Because you are alive. Life has purpose.”

As she thanked him and left the room, he called her back in, and gave her one more line: “The thing that you are searching so hard for—you already have.”

The old monk had transitioned. He hoped to lose. Everything didn’t have to go his way. There was another way—one that he didn’t have to know or control.


ps… if you’re over 50 years old, I highly recommend those cds!  Click the link at the top of the blog for info.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Joseph Rodriguez
    May 8, 2014 at 8:45 am

    I’m going to plagiarize the Monk’s words… thanks for sharing Mike…Blessings to you and all you love bro….

    • May 8, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Knock yoself out my brotha!


  2. May 8, 2014 at 9:34 am

    Very nice language to a discovery I too have made along the way. I have come to hate the word “regret” because I now see that is worry backwards. It is not in trying to control it and get it right, especially our yesterdays, where we find rest. It is trusting HIs love and grace despite everything. Thanks, Mike.

  3. Gary McGinnis
    May 8, 2014 at 11:01 am

    This is really really good Mike!

  4. May 8, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Hey Pappa P!

    Thanks for posting this and for it being so long. I know you apologized in the middle of it, but it needed to keep going. Thankful for your Thursday morning blogs. I didn’t get the cds yet but I purchased Rohr’s book – Falling Forward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life on itunes so that I can listen to it this weekend while I drive home. I was just talking with a mentor here last night about this and the journey I’m in right now. Man I’m excited to start driving :). I hope you enjoy that hot Texas sun!

    Love you lots! Megan 🙂

    On Thu, May 8, 2014 at 7:16 AM, Mike Paschall

  5. May 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I’m trying to live a second half life now… wth does that mean for my second half?! 🙂

    let’s rap soon! Got some life to share

    • May 8, 2014 at 1:02 pm

      oh… I’m sure it will still be waiting on you.

  6. May 8, 2014 at 4:16 pm

    Thanks Papa. xoxo

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