[Updated from the archives.]
The internet radio I listen to at work was tuned in to Celtic music: Gaelic Storm, The Irish Rovers, The Chieftains, The Tossers, Dropkick Murphys and a ton of people you might’ve never heard of.
Imagine my consternation, then, when I looked at the ad banner at the top of the website and saw the words “Is a Walk-in Tub Right for You?”
Seriously? How old do you think I am, internet radio website?
Wait, don’t answer that.*
Elderly Without Being Old
As Keri Wyatt Kent explains in her book Deeper into the Word: Reflections on 100 Words from the Old Testament, elders have been revered for millennia. According to her entry on elder, the word could denote mere age or a formal position of leadership in a family, clan, village or larger unit of society. Elder is a New Testament word as well, translated into English from the Greek presbutero. There too it can mean an older person or it can refer to an office within the church.
So here’s the thing. Since the same word can mean both being older and being in leadership, you’d think that leadership would be restricted to those who are older. That’s not the case. In the Old Testament, God anointed a young Jeremiah as a prophet and told him to go tell it like it is to those in charge. (Jeremiah 1:4-10.) For a New testament example, we find Timothy who pastored a church (and appointed elders to assist him) while still young. (1 Timothy 4:12.)
Sometimes I wonder about being given that kind of responsibility at a young age, though. It’s not that I question God’s wisdom in Jeremiah’s and Timothy’s situations. Far from it. I see how they served God despite their youth, that they could not boast in their own ability, and that he used them mightily. No, I’m not thinking of them. I’m thinking of someone I know a lot more intimately: me.
Elder Without Being Old Enough
In both the church and my profession I hit leadership early. I was on the elder board at age 29 and chairing it at age 31 (concurrent with a 2 1/2 year pastor search, I might add), and appointed as a judge at age 35. I don’t think I was ready for either position, and my lack of experience and maturity showed itself often enough. Then again, one thing I learned was how to rely on God. I just would have liked to have taken advantage of that knowledge more. There are a lot of mistakes I made because I tried to act under my own power.
Yet after that initial three year term on the elder board I was asked to return for two more stints (or maybe three, I lost count). And in my legal career I’ve been on the bench for 19 years, with another decade-plus to come. I’m certainly better at these things than I was at the beginning, and there is a ton of experience I’d have never gained without being in those positions. It’s funny, though, that as I’ve gained experience and maturity I’m also growing in the ability to look to God to equip me, use me, and work through me to do the work he has chosen for me.
And I hope this continues even when I’m ready for a walk-in tub.
*I suppose it could be worse. I could be getting ads for monster truck rallies or something.**
**My apologies to those readers who frequent monster truck rallies.