“Any chance we could have a phone chat?” the email read. “I could use insight from an older brother.”
I can’t pretend to be offended. I am increasingly the old guy. Call it what you will: seasoned, mature, experienced, or just old. At 55, I have fewer years before me than I do behind me.
And I like it. I didn’t know myself well in my younger years. I wasn’t aware of the limits of my giftedness. I hadn’t yet learned my blind spots. My desire to prove myself drove a lot of my ministry, often in unhelpful ways.
Now I know myself. I’m more comfortable in my own skin. I know my limits. I’ve seen enough that it’s hard to be surprised. Most of all, I’ve seen God’s faithfulness in the ups and downs of life and ministry for a long time now. If given a chance to rewind my life, I don’t think I’d take it.
I got thinking about this lately as I meditated on Joshua’s mention of Caleb in Joshua 14. We’d seen Caleb as a younger man. When other spies doubted, Caleb trusted God. “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it,” he said (Numbers 13:30).
Now, a generation later, Caleb stood with the nation in that land. He speaks to a new generation about things they might not have known. Forty-five years later, his message hasn’t changed. “So now give me this hill country of which the LORD spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the LORD said” (Joshua 14:12).
I’ve always been amazed at Caleb’s energy and courage in his old age. I hadn’t noticed until recently the role that he played in the second generation after the Exodus. They needed someone who’d proved God faithful in the first generation to help them meet the challenges of the second.
It’s not enough to just get old. We need old faith too. God gives some of us the ability to not just get old, but to learn to trust him more. We then get to stand up and tell a new generation what we’ve seen God do in the past, and then go for it with them.
“I believe there is a blessedness about old age that we young men know nothing of,” said Charles Spurgeon. “In the first place, the old man has a good experience to talk about. The young men are only just trying some of the promises; but the old man can turn them over one by one, and say, ‘There, I have tried that, and that, and that.’ We read them over and say, ‘I hope they are true;’ but the old man says, ‘I know they are true.’ And then he begins to tell you why.”
I’m somewhere between middle age and old age, but I think that’s true. May God give the church more old men and women who have nothing left to prove, and who can stand up and tell a new generation, “God is good. You can count on him. Now let’s go for it.”