I’ve Got a Problem
Tomorrow I’ll know more than I do today. Or at least, I hope so.
That’s the typical pattern, right? Who of us hasn’t been horribly embarrassed by reflecting on things we did and said five years ago? Yet, at that time, it seemed like the right thing to say or do.
Sometimes I’ve wondered: ‘If twenty-years-from-now me could speak with the me-of-right-now, what would I say to myself?’ I usually think that having this kind of input from my future self would be of value.
But, sadly, I’m not so quick to extend that grace to others.
Here’s what I mean: There are Christian brothers and sisters all around me who are 20 years ahead of me already; but do I listen to them? And when they speak, do I treat their words with as much reverence as I would the words from future-me?
The Problem Played Out
Recently I’ve been listening to an excellent new album by James Hoffman. One song in particular resonated with me over the last day (it’s the song cued up below). In the song, Hoffman is singing about the experience of holding his newborn daughter. He’s reflecting on the truth of what his mother told him: ‘Now I know what my mother meant when she said I’d never understand — fully — till I held you.’
Every parent knows that problem, right? You try to explain to your children just how much you love them, but you know that they won’t know until they know. There is a different kind of knowledge that comes with age, with experience, with life. You can’t buy that. And no matter how many blogs or books you read, it is only acquired from being there.
At Least I’m Not Alone
King Rehoboam forgot this, like I often do. When he ascended to the throne of his all-wise father, Solomon, he was faced with a problem. He had to determine how best to win the loyalty and obedience of his citizens. Two options were proposed; one by the elders who had counselled his father, and the other by his friends with whom he had grown up (see 1 Kings 12).
In the moment of decision, he rejected the counsel of those who had ‘been there’ for the advice of those who were his peers. In the moment, it seemed wiser to him. But that was foolish. Listen to God’s evaluation:
And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat [to tear the kingdom away from Rehoboam]. (1 Kings 12:13-15 ESV)
My Concern for My Generation
I can think of several times that I’ve rejected the counsel of godly, older Christians. I’ve always regretted it. I can think of other times when I’ve heeded the counsel of those who’ve been there, even when it didn’t make sense to me. I’ve never regretted that.
My concern for many Christians, particularly those about 35 and under, is that we don’t give appropriate weight to the words of the elders in our midst. We crowd-source opinions on parenting from friends on Facebook, we podcast young, hip pastors to learn about marriage, we talk to our peers to hear their opinions on money.
And when we do that, we’re fools.
The spirit of Rehoboam is alive and well in me, but I’m striving to put it to death. How about you? Where do you seek counsel? Whose opinion do you trust more than your own? In each of our lives, God has given us Christians who, like our mothers, already understand fully what we can’t yet know. Will we listen?