Most of the time wisdom and age travel together; sometimes age travels alone. For example, Wednesday morning I dribbled my breakfast burrito down the front of my shirt. It was quite depressing. I’ve been feeding myself for a long time; I should be a more reliable eater by now. There is a haunting voice in my head that says I should be past some of these problems. I should be further along.
As I drove away from the fine dining establishment where I’d sat reading and writing and dribbling, I wondered whether I should go home first to change shirts.
Had I still worked at Apache, which was filled with hopeful young adults when I was there, I would certainly go home to change. I’d prefer not to be the old guy of the office shuffling aimlessly among the cubicles with dirty clothes.
I belong to a group at my church where I usually sit next a man who’s twenty years older than I am, and who wears predictable and persistent food stains on his black shirt. Every week. Sometimes the stains are new, and sometimes the old ones disappear, yet, he wears food stains regularly. I don’t want that to be people’s memory of me.
But I don’t work at Apache nowadays. I work for a smaller family-owned company, and there are four of us in the office on the busiest days. We are all in the same age group, meaning all of us have seen enough of life we aren’t easy to impress and hard to discourage. And so, I drove straight to the office without changing.
Besides, it wasn’t a white shirt, it was dark blue, and since I sit behind a desk behind my computer screen all day, the salsa stain wouldn’t be that obvious.
In my office building I kept my portfolio across my chest while riding the elevator with well-dressed stain-free classy people. Once again, I didn’t want to be that guy, even if I actually was that guy.
Later that day, during one of our frequent rambling office conversations, I learned that all three men working in the office had some sort of stain on their shirt, all from that morning. When I told my Apache story, and said I didn’t worry about embarrassing my age-group since everyone in the office was my age-group, Bob said, “And no one cares about your shirt. Isn’t it great!”
Wes, a great friend who also recently turned 60 years old, told me that one of his mentors – and let me stop right here and say how cool it is to still have mentors at 60, to know men I want to grow up to be like … Wes and I agreed about that – told him that the next ten to fifteen years will be the most influential of his life. His friend said: Don’t waste a day.
So my most influential years are beginning and I have salsa dribble on my shirt. Bummer.
Even the Apostle Paul realized he wasn’t yet who he hoped he’d be. He wrote in Romans 7, “I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.”
Here’s the thing about this story. Maybe what we offer the world isn’t a perfect life, a pristine story, or even a clean shirt. Perfect people have little effect on the world, and few people listen to their advice … their story is too unbelievable and their advice unfollowable if not completely irrelevant.
When we read the Bible we see that time after time God chose to work with those who limped through life wearing stained clothes. We are in good company.
Here’s the good news. I don’t dribble food on my clothes every day. I hope I have a stain-free shirt when you and I meet, but if I’m holding my portfolio across my chest, just don’t ask. Let me shuffle on my way to the old guy’s section.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
I need your help. The primary reason people read these articles is because people like you share with friends, so please do. And thank you. Also, you can find more of my writing on my weekly blog, read insights on Tumblr, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.