Alongsider Briefings: Reflections of a Life Lived with God

This is not half time . . . I’m living in the Third Half!


I slid into the seat opposite my friend Chris. Chris is one of the most provocative friends I have. We’ve known each other for over twenty years. Some years we rarely see each other but when we do, we quickly go to the heart of our lives. We typically end up preaching to one another. Our restaurant booth conversation this morning was about aging.

“I’m entering my third half,” he said. Chris was twisting the title of the popular book Half Time by Bob Buford. Buford challenges people to move from the search for success in the first half of life to significance in the second half. What is this third half?

Chris just turned sixty-five. Like me, he’s passed the half-way point in life, choosing significance over success. Chris is seeking God’s best for the remaining one-two decades of life — the “third half.”

“Can I steal this phrase?” I asked. Some of my best ideas come from conversations with friends. At nearly seventy-four, I’m not looking at my third half, I’m living it and it’s different from my previous two halves! What marks this third half?

Character trumps achievement. Three years ago, I began asking myself, “What can of life do I want to live?” From this reflection I developed several “rules” for life. Now these rules are not rigid prescriptions for control but a statement of practice for my life. Here are a couple of my “rules:”

I’m enjoying God’s presence and am faithful to His purposes in the rhythms and routines of life.

My marriage with Peggy is marked by fun, intimacy, and an ever-growing faith.

I will cultivate a wise and thoughtful life through the wisdom of God’s word, mentors, books, and life.

Weekly I try to review these rules. My goal is not to record how I’ve failed but to record how I’ve succeeded. That’s much more encouraging to me.

In a recent review of my nine rules, I discovered that there was not a ministry goal among them. They focused on the quality of life I wanted to live — my character — and not goals to achieve. This was a pleasant surprise because I didn’t set out to think this way. They were a natural expression of a new set of values. In this third half, the quality of the person I am is more important than the quantity of things I accomplish. Character trumps achievement.

Relationships are what counts. If there’s one lesson I wish I would have applied earlier in my life it’s the ability to develop deep friendships. My life hasn’t been devoid of friends; I’ve enjoyed rich relationships over the years. I wish I could go back in time and live from my current ability to be a friend, an ability gained over decades. My friendships would be so much richer.

Friendships are a high priority in my third half. The Apostle Paul had the same priority. Alone in a dark Roman prison, he was glad for his friend Onesiphorus, who “often refreshed me” (2 Timothy 1:16). Paul asks Timothy to “do your best to come to me soon” (2 Timothy 4:9) and encouraged him to bring Mark who was “useful to me” (2 Timothy 4:11). Paul needed and valued friends.

In my third half I value friends that I can “hang with.” While I enjoy the camaraderie of ministry partners, I need friends that have a depth greater than our latest ministry exploits. They’re friends with whom I enjoy long conversations . . . sometimes about nothing important! We can talk music, movies, books, or laugh about life. God even comes into our conversation. These are the people who refresh me and I refresh them.

One of my senior “maxims” is that life is too short to work with people that I don’t have chemistry with. In this third half, I’m more selective about people to partner with. Ministry is now an opportunity to partner with friends rather than a mission to accomplish. Partnerships with friends is a life-sustaining priority. Relationships are what count in the third half.

The splendor of wisdom. Proverbs 20:29 is insightful about this third half: “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.”

The strength of young leaders is their enthusiasm and faith — God is big enough to accomplish their vision or dreams. Sometimes I get worn out just listening to these bold statements of faith. I think to myself, “Been there, done that.” The splendor of age is a wisdom borne from a lifetime of experience.

However, there’s a downside to experience and wisdom. I can use my experience to place myself on a pedestal where from my lofty height I criticize, critique, or analyze. I forget that I was once one of these young leaders — filled with a big vision, big faith, and big enthusiasm. 

In this third half, I must douse my inner critique and affirm people. If asked, I give practical advice or a brief word of caution. If I’m not asked, I encourage and support as I’m able. We all need a Barnabas — an encourager (Acts 4:36) — in our lives and I want to be this person.

Life’s third half is not always easy. This season brings health issues, family heartaches, or financial uncertainties. What keeps us going? Our character helps us endure, friends stand by us, and wisdom gives insight to life’s challenges. Behind all of this is a life-tested passion to be “planted in the house of the Lord and to flourish in the courts of our God . . . still bearing fruit in old age . . . ever full of sap and green” (Psalm 92:13-14).

So Chris, wherever you are as you read this, thanks for giving me a name for this season of life. Like you, I want to live a life where I’m serving the “purposes of God in my own generation” and then to “fall asleep” (Acts 13:36) – having lived well in the third half.

The Ways of the Leader Cover Image for Bill_1

The Ways of the Leader

Check out Bill’s latest book The Ways of the Leader on NavPress. The book will help local leaders wisely develop local strategies for local challenges.

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