“Preaching with you in the congregation made me nervous!” my younger friend laughed after worship a few years ago. Completely surprised, I laughed back: “Are you kidding?”
It was a rare Sunday for me, one when I was both away from my own pulpit and not preaching or singing elsewhere. My friend had done a great job preaching, and I don’t know any pastor whose work in a community I respect more. I’ve preached on occasions when I was nervous myself because I knew a veteran preacher/respected mentor was present that day. I knew that no one in the crowd would be more “for” me, but still . . . a bit daunting. I just couldn’t imagine having that effect on someone myself.
After the surprise came a feeling of humility and some trepidation. Why would anyone think I was much more than a wet-behind-the-ears apprentice in preaching, pastoral care, and church leadership?
And extend this to your own areas of life and expertise. Did it surprise you when younger colleagues started to look to you as a mentor? Or, though your kids have been on their own and doing well for a long time, isn’t it a little daunting to realize that they now look to you as you, not that long ago, looked to your own parents? “I want to ask Dad” fits well with my dad, G. B., but that it could be said regarding Curtis is still a shock to Curtis. Are you kidding? That’s above my pay grade, further up the ladder than my rung, isn’t it? (I still ache to call Dad.)
I’ve lived most of my life being able to count on and seek the wisdom of older and wiser folks who’ve paved the way for me. It’s always been good to know they were there.
I remember (forgive the political opinion) my sadness the first time when, though we still had a chance to elect a president from “the Greatest Generation,” we squandered a soon-lost-forever opportunity. I guess I wanted, felt like we needed, more than just a capable person in office. We kids needed a father, a role model of wisdom and maturity. I knew for sure my generation couldn’t be ready to lead. Anyway, how could it possibly be time?
At official graduations, we have ceremonies. But the kind of graduation I have in mind? At first, we almost miss the clues, but suddenly they come more rapidly and obviously, and we look around and realize—this is frightening—that we now occupy the role for others that our parents and mentors did for us.
The time really hasn’t come as quickly as it seems. We just could hardly imagine that it would ever come. We’ve always lived life feeling like we had a safety net. We knew theoretically that the time would come to grow up, but we had time, right? Even if we lurched toward something stupid, well, wiser, more seasoned, more mature adults were still there. They’d grown up fast, surviving a Great Depression, truly “saving the planet,” the free world, in World War II. If we messed up much, they’d pick us up and get us back on track.
Well, my generation almost forgot to grow up. “Greatest,” in any positive sense, will not be mentioned in the same paragraph with our bunch. Certainly, not “wisest.”
But here’s wisdom for any generation finding itself, like it or not, taking its turn to lead on center stage: trust the only One who doesn’t change and seek the wisdom he has promised to give to those who ask.
You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!
Copyright 2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.