Living Fully in the Third Third of Life

Twenty years ago we began keeping a family record of all the books we read. Looking at that list now, we can see the phases and stages of our lives and the lives of our families, friends, and communities, covering subjects from faith and farming to gardening, growing “fine young men,” and grandparenting. A title recently added to our list indicates that we are edging toward a new phase.

I will carry Walter C. Wright’s The Third Third of Life: Preparing for Your Future (InterVarsity) with me into the rest of my life. Wright thinks of life in thirds: from birth to age 30, 30 to 60, and 60 onward. Early into his third third, Wright asked his mentor Max De Pree for counsel on how to transition his leadership gifts into this next phase of his life. Drawing on their long friendship, Wright and De Pree spent time in conversation and intentional questioning about how to enter into this stage of life with a sense of calling, purpose, and grace. Wright then invites others to join in this thoughtful consideration.

Drawing on stories of others who have lived fully into the latter third, Wright asks readers to consider their own future. How have you faced fear and embraced hope in the past? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? Who are your mentors? Who looks to you to be mentored? Wright encourages readers to be proactive in engaging the conversation by forming a “third third group of trust” and spending six to eight sessions together in communal self-reflection.

As a compendium to Wright’s book, you might consider reading 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me about Retirement, coauthored by Rein Selles, a member of West End Christian Reformed Church in Edmonton, Alberta. The authors identify key principles that are part of responsible fiscal planning.

My husband and I are not yet in the third third of our lives as Wright’s book defines it, but the book has opened the door to conversations we want to have with our family, with friends, and in our community as to what our lives might look like beyond our present work. We are tiptoeing towards entering this place with thoughtful and graceful steps.

About the Author

Jenny deGroot is a teacher/librarian in Langley, British Columbia.

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