Desiring Life

Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?

Forgetting the Gandalfs

Every morning he slowly departs his black truck, parked just to the side of the road, and makes his way to his spot on the corner. After fitting his orange reflector vest around both shoulders, the gray haired man is ready. Holding a wooden STOP sign in his dangling left hand, he looks up to greet the first to approach the four way stop. Each morning I drive up from behind him. As my car brakes (because the real stop sign in the ground commands me), I can’t help but look his way. He smiles and waves, just as he does to other cars that pass. He looks happy. Maybe he is. I hate it.

I don’t know his situation, and it’s probably very wrong for me to judge him. But each time I see his hunched body, the orange vest marked “Pedestrian Crossing” hanging on him, and his gray hair shining in the morning sun, I get sad and angry. Essentially, this is what our culture offers a man in the late stages of his life: a chance to wave to morning commuters. In such a season of life when a man should be giving back, counseling, and directing those less experienced in life, we stick him on the dusty shelf and attempt to make him feel purposeful (or we smile at him while he plays golf). And all the while we are thinking, “Move over, old fella, let the young guns have a shot at running this world.”

I long (and the culture does too, though they don’t know it) for a society like the one exemplified in The Last of the Mohicans. Nathaniel, the hero of the drama, has just been forced to allow the beauty of the film, Cora, to be taken captive by the evil Magua. Magua and the Native Americans he is with return to their village with Cora, her sister, and a British general. Before any decision can be made on their lives (Magua would kill all three if up to him), the tribe’s wise man must be consulted. The whole village gathers around him, eagerly anticipating his powerful opinion.

It would be exceptionally better to grow up in a society such as this, where age is valued and each gray hair represents a sliver of wisdom. To know that your domain and influence will only increase as your hair loses color. Instead, culture tells us that if we are not retired and on the golf course by 55 or 60, then we should get out of the way so the slick newcomers can run things. I can’t imagine the guidance and wisdom we have missed out on by grooming the elderly to wave at the important drivers on their way to work where they will make a valuable contribution to the world.

The glory of young men is their strength,
And the honor of old men is their gray hair. -Proverbs 20:29


6 responses to “Forgetting the Gandalfs

  1. Ted Ancelet March 21, 2007 at 10:56 am

    I wonder if one of the greatest sins of the west is not the abandonment of the aged. We just talked about this subject yesterday in our staff meeting. Great post, it’s good to remember that youthful zeal is not a replacement for the wisdom of life experience.

  2. Chad March 21, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    Ted and Luke,
    I would love to have some older AND wiser Christians come along side of us as my wife and I lead our family and lead in our church. We’ve been able to connect with different generations. I don’t know what it is, but we can’t seem to make a connection with those over 70. I’d love to hear the stories of both winning and losing, trial and error, victories and mistakes. I wonder if we made that sort of bond of discipleship, they wouldn’t seem so grumpy, mean and cantankerous. I’ll take an action this week to try and make a step in correcting that error.

  3. Luke March 21, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    I do confess that I have not approached many people 70 years and older with the intent to seek their wisdom. However, many of the older generations seem to carry that grumpy, reserved, and un-connectable persona. I wonder if it’s been the years of neglect that Ted spoke of being one of the greatest sins of the West. How incredible would it be for that to be redeemed in America.

    I’m with you, Chad. I need that kind of involvement in my life from a seasoned mentor. Most of the time, I find that in authors. But there is something so special about a person in the flesh. I pray God brings those wise few onto our paths.

  4. Gill September 2, 2007 at 8:09 am

    Brilliant post. I agree with you – we miss out on so many life lessons through the arrogance of youth.

  5. Xan September 8, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Hey. I like these stories you are telling. that is a great scipture verse. And just as much as we must honor old men, I must ask… where are the old gray hairs, calling out a young man’s strength… wow. that would be cool.

    I remember Allender saying one time… old men hate young men. they hate them, because they remind them of all the things they didn’t do, and all the dreams they had, that never were fulfilled. interesting thought. calling out a young man’s glory… I would love to see that.

    cant wait to hear what NY doctor says…

  6. WNK September 27, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    If gray hairs represent wisdom, I am gaining more and more every day. Seriously. I think I’ll be as white as Bob Barker in five years.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: