A friend of ours has written a series of books on how husbands can pray for their wives, how wives can pray for their husbands, and how parents can pray for their children. Surprisingly, our friend is unmarried and has no kids. When we found out that he had authored these books, we couldn’t resist discussing the obvious: What’s a guy without a wife and kids doing writing on these subjects? Emily suggested they would be good to read as an outsider’s objective perspective looking in on things. (I guess my opinion isn’t objective enough for her.) I, being the pious one, suggested that Scripture can make you wise beyond your years, and then I backed that up with a few verses from Scripture:
The proverbs of Solomon…Their purpose is to teach wisdom and discipline…They make the naive mature, the young knowledgeable and discreet. (Proverbs 1:1-4 CEB)
Coming up with these two arguments in favor of our friend’s writings on our own, I thought I’d ask him about it. I can’t remember now exactly how I breached the subject, but rest assured that it was awkwardly and directly stated. “Hey, your books. But…you don’t have a wife and kids.” He’d had the question before. “Ah, yeh, it’s just Scripture that I turned into prayers for people to pray. I tweaked passages to make them easily pray-able.” Bravo.
Mine and Emily’s bewilderment and gut “What?” reaction to our friend’s books must be akin to how some of my colleagues feel. The average age of folks within our organization, I recently learned, is 52. That’s nearly twice my age. I’m convinced that some of them must look at me and think, “Well done for moving to Africa, but what of practical use to you have to offer?” Truth is age speaks louder than education. We find it difficult to look past who we perceive someone to be.
Now, I don’t want to incite a pity party, but only to point out a perceived lack of respect, or perhaps better stated lack of full confidence, on the part of my older colleagues. And I readily add that when I’m their age I probably won’t respect kids my age either.
To understand, picture the scenario in which I regularly find myself at work. There I am, seated around a table with colleagues (including national translators), all of whom are my senior, and I’m asked to critique their work. A verse that the team has translated is read aloud and then I’m asked if I see any problems with it. Imagine if your job worked like this and you were critiqued in this way. Would you be receptive? I know I probably wouldn’t be. No wonder in his letter to Timothy after writing “Command and teach these things” did Paul add,
Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12 NIV)
I can demand respect from my kids, but I can’t from my co-workers and colleagues. I’ve got to win it. I’ve got to win it in all these ways that Paul mentions “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young,
compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the
striving and tolerant of the weak and strong.
Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”
–George Washington Carver
It’s not whether the people around us are wiser or share wisdom with us, it’s whether we’re listening–whether we have ears to hear that makes us wise beyond our years.