This week I told my life story (that’s right, 1956-2014) to two young men, something I’ve done many times as part of the Journey Group exercise. It always leaves my heart soft for several days afterward. Maybe because of the raw exposure, or the vulnerability of being known, or maybe it’s the recalling of those scary episodes I was lucky to survive. Being the reflective and analytical type, I end up wondering why events happened the way they did, and more importantly, what will happen next. And I wonder what I will have to offer in the next decades of life.
I recently attended a retreat in Colorado with The Noble Heart ministries, and one of the speakers, Gary Barkalow, talked about the value we gain from our years of experience. He quoted Proverbs 20:29, which says, “The glory of the young is their strength; the gray hair of experience is the splendor of the old.” (NLT)
Now that’s the sort of verse I can enjoy since I have several gray hairs of my own. Gary said men often fret because we don’t have the strength we used to have when we were young, and we tend to discount the strength we now bring. Since we are not the man we used to be, we must be less of a man now, so we pull back and sit down and give up.
What a terrible way to live.
At the retreat in Colorado it rained and snowed all day so it was too wet outside for a big campfire. We watched a manly movie, instead. We watched Skyfall. There was a great scene where James Bond, thought to be dead, comes back to finish his mission. He was questioned by Gareth Mallory, Intelligence and Security Committee Chairman, who wondered why Bond was so determined to return to his very dangerous job. “Why not stay dead? Few field agents get to leave so cleanly.”
Do you ever hear this voice in your head? As in, Why don’t you simply retire, stand down, let the younger passionate guys handle it from here? Don’t you think you’ve earned a break from the action?
But if we are following the calling God gave us, we can’t simply stop. Gary said when the stress of his own ministry becomes overwhelming he sometimes says to God, “That’s it, I’m done,” and God replies, “You don’t have permission to be done.”
God says that to all of us. It’s actually good news, not bad. It’s confirmation that we still have lots more to accomplish. We still have value to add.
We discussed another Bible verse, James 1:3-4, which includes, “… the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.” (AMP) These qualities … endurance, steadfastness, patience, come only through time, struggle, and battle. They don’t dwell among youngsters. And because of these, we are more, not less.
Back to the movie. When he finally meets the villain, Bond says his hobby is “resurrection.” You and I ought to make that our own hobby, our own life objective. Resurrection. We should be continually restoring what we’ve lost, constantly learning new things, redefining ourselves, and embracing the next phase of our calling.
I have been reading the new book by Sam and John Eldredge, Killing Lions: A Guide Through the Trials Young Men Face, and one of the first things I’ve noticed is how the trials that young men face are the same trials that all men face. The spiritual battles are the same no matter how old we are. The difference is that having many years of survival helps bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.
Any time I go to a workshop or retreat I come away with a bigger vision of life … which, of course, is one of the main reasons I attend in the first place. And I came away from this retreat repeating what Gandalf said about Bilbo in The Hobbit: “There is a lot more in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself.”
I need to be reminded of that constantly. So do you. Your best days – your most enduring, steadfast, and patient days – are still ahead of you.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32