Not Many Wise Here

Fair or not, I have decided that the northern wintertime inhabitants dotting the landscape of Central and South Florida (otherwise known as “snowbirds”) must have bought into the whole “Me Generation” shtick of the ’60s. I was brought up to respect my elders, and (as the saying goes) “Some of my best friends are old”; so when I see that the behavior of other people’s grandparents around town ranges from inconsiderate to selfish (or downright hostile), I’m shocked. I’m looking advice.jpgfor wisdom from people I’ve mistaken for the “Greatest Generation,” and instead I get dissed by someone who used to drive a psychedelic VW to sit-ins.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy (James 3:17, KJV).

What I’m looking for, as a somewhat younger person, is a person of integrity who is reasonable, accessible, merciful, and fair. I’m discouraged already; disillusioned even at church, where instead of “older-person wisdom,” I’m getting a lengthy and detailed (!) organ recital.

One of my most memorable examples of older-not-equaling-wiser was the leader of a ministry I was leaving. I attempted to appeal to him, to unburden myself of some grievances, as per 1 Timothy 5:1 (KJV): “Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father.” This man was a mixture of Hitler (without the charismatic speaking style), Napoleon, and old-time fundamentalist dictator. He told me he was too old to change. Nice. What is that age of being-past-accountability? I forget.

One of the best mentors my husband and I ever had was a roofer—humble, passionate about Christ, loving, accessible, and available. He walked with God, and his children followed his example. He had grown up on the streets of Philadelphia and was a tough guy—not one of the intelligentsia. I like intelligent people. But unless they are wise and kind, I’m probably not going to drop in on them and ask for advice or prayer.

I see self-proclaimed experts of all kinds online; but when they contradict each other in matters theological, I’m reading between the lines to see if they are obnoxious horn-tooters or humble, approachable mentors. I’ll take the latter, thank you, and I think Scripture backs me up:

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing (1 Cor. 13:2).

On the flip side, I have seen people from whom I could learn, but they were not always what I’d call “older.” That’s okay—I can think of biblical heroes who were far from ancient: Naaman’s servant girl, the boy with the lunch, Daniel and his friends, David the shepherd boy, Samuel, young Timothy, and Joseph.

So much of Christianity is counterintuitive: The last shall be first; lose your life to save it; receive by giving; become as a child to enter the kingdom. For His own glory, Christ came to earth and revealed Himself to fishermen, tax collectors, and children instead of to Roman statesmen, philosophers, and religious leaders. The shepherds saw angels, the lepers felt His touch, the children gathered around Him, and society’s outcasts ate with and were received by Him. I see an accessible Savior walking down dusty roads, the God of the universe washing feet, and I wonder: Why are we all jostling for positions at the head of the table, instead of holding a towel at the door? Is there anyone who is not too grand to listen, to come alongside, to share the accumulated wisdom of years and lessons learned through pain? Where are the elder to teach the younger?

And will I be any different? Do I listen to the kids in the youth group or even to my own children? Have I overfocused on my own needs to the exclusion of those hurting in my church? Is someone wishing I were more accessible? I don’t plan on growing old and cranky and driving badly in Florida. Either I’m going to have to monitor my “Me Generation” tendencies, or I need to stop driving and move north before I get old.

beth.jpgBeth Murschell is married to Mick, a computer programmer, and they live in Bradenton, Florida. Her master’s degree is in music education, but her past work experience includes industrial cleaning, childcare, bumper factory, fast food, camp work (three different camps), music team, telemarketer, media center, music educator, sixth-grade teacher, maid, retail, writer, and now mother of four. She has lived in Panama City, Louisville, Greenville, Miami, Brevard, Quakertown, and Bradenton.
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