I am forty three years old. I don’t know how this happened, but it seems pretty much undeniable.
I am past the halfway mark of the average life expectancy. I have devoted my adult life to a single career. I have chosen a wife. My kids are all well beyond the halfway mark through childhood.
There are lots of things that I thought I would have by this age. Many of them… didn’t happen. I have lost some of the blessings of youth and early adulthood. And there has been suffering. In some sense, I have been absurdly and miraculously free of the sorts of things that can really break a person. But all the same? Nobody told me, or maybe I just never listened… Sometimes, life can hurt. Sometimes things can such. There are pains that I was so woefully unprepared for.
Life is not what I thought it would be.
And yet! Yet!!!
There is this freedom. And there is this thing like joy. I am starting to have this understanding.
When I was a kid, I thought when I reached the advanced age of 20, I would feel like an adult. I thought I would have it all figured out. As I neared 20, I started to suspect that this was just a tad optimistic. But 25 came and went, and I still felt like a kid playing dress up. And then came 30, and I still feared somebody was going to find out I was just pretending. Thirty five came with something like desperation. I think this was the time I started to fear that I wasn’t ever going to grow up.
And here I am, now. Sad and joyful and disapointed and hopeful and forty-three years old. The understanding I thought I would have at 20? I am finally getting there. I seem to be about as good at predicting timing as the Windows Downloard Manager.
Tonight, I was listening to this incredibly talk by Richard Rohr. He was talking about this process of becoming an elder. And how the second half of life, it is all about going deeper than the words and plattitudes we spout off through the first half. He used the example of the trinity: “Do you have an experience of the trinity deeper than the motions you are making?” He asked.
I am not sure that he meant for it to go in the direction my brain did, but I had this flash of understanding, just then. I realized that I am a symbol of the trinity. Or it is a symbol of me. Or both and also, i suppose, neither.
The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.
I am a trinity unto myself, as I move into the second half of my life.
I am a father in many senses of the word, and longing to be one more so.
I am a son. I am still a son. In some narrow senses, I am less of a son than I have been, in that I am less dependent on my earthly father. (Some of the time.) My mom has passed away, I do not directly depend on her in this world.
And yet, I am the summation of my son-experiences.
In other words: I am grown. I am working at being wise, I am working at being an elder. I am working at being, ultimately, a father. I am able to do this because I grew. Because I was a son. Perhaps this is similiar to Jesus’ entry into the world: God the father is in some sense justified as father because he was a son, because he set aside his God-hood.
And the Holy Spirit? Just as it is with the trinity outside of me, it is with the trinity within. The Holy Spirit is the between place, the mystery place, the place where words begin to come short… But I can point to some things, hint and suggest.
There are experiences that are between my fatherhood and my sonhood. There is a boundary, a bleeding over, a bleeding through. There is a need to stitch these two opposite sides together, just as the head-side of a coin must be joined to the tales-side of the coin with the width of the coin.
And just as there is this mystery outside of me, there is this mystery within: I, and you, are the father and the son and the holy spirit.