I recently was part of a mission team comprised of 15 pastors from 4 different states ranging in age from late 20’s to early 60’s. I was the one at the end of the early 60’s curve. I share that to make a point later. We served churches that differed in denomination, worship style and size. So we were not only exposed to the different culture of the country we visited, we had a chance to get acquainted with different cultures within our own mix of various generations, worship and church experiences. I found it interesting how I, as the oldest in the group, loved being ‘unplugged’ for much of the journey. I still view the internet and social media primarily as an interruption in my life and hope it is a fad that will pass in time.
I enjoyed watching some of those ‘whipper-snappers’ desperately seeking any and every opportunity to gain a Wi-Fi signal. One of the young guys, who constantly seemed to have phone in hand seeking social media connection, kept calling the team leader and lead translator by the wrong names. It is funny how younger folks often don’t connect well in conversation forgetting names of those sitting across the table, because they have been so distracted by social media and how us older guys who avoid social media in favor of personal converse with those across the table still get the names wrong because we just are too old to remember. I guess some of these things just balance themselves in the natural order of life.
One of the young guys did ask what I thought was an interesting question; “If you, at your current age, could go back to give advice to yourself at age 35 what would you say?” Wow, that got me thinking of all the things I have experienced and learned since I was thirty-five. Would I have some great advice for that guy? Then I was reminded of a poster I have in my office concerning advice; “Wise men don’t need it! Fools won’t heed it!” I began to realize that my 35 year old self would probably tell this 61 year old me, in a respectful manner (because we both had mothers who taught us manners); “Thanks for your advice but that was your generation’s point of view. We are going to be different!”
Sadly, many our early thirties think that way. However, as we get to our early sixties many of us realize that Solomon was right when he wisely wrote, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” While we may have new gadgets and toys than the previous generation we still essentially repeat many of the same mistakes. We still seem to be people who learn slowly and often by our own mistakes…if we learn.
So what would I say to my 35 year old self? I would not bore him with my experiences or advice. I would point him to another whose advice, as a man in his early thirties, still carry life-changing meaning and eternal truth. I would tell him to listen more closely and follow the advice of Jesus more completely. In word and deed Jesus advised us to do as he did by living each day doing what God placed him on this planet to do. This is the way to a fulfilled life with no regrets. In fact he told us that his coming was to give us a full and abundant life (John 10:10). He counsels us to place our desires, feelings and personal agenda aside to be a servant. He directs us to walk away from a lifestyle of submission to selfish appetites, destructive thoughts and action to a life of purity, harmony and love with God and fellowman.
By age 35 I had already read the entire Bible and would recommend continual study and reading. But, I would tell my 35 year old self to pay closer attention and follow the teachings and lifestyle of that man also in his early thirties. All the necessary teachings and actions of Jesus can be found in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. One can easily learn and follow those teachings by daily reading, meditating and applying what is revealed and learned every day. Even my 35 year old self, who struggled with math, could calculate that there are 89 total chapters in those four books so reading only three chapters a day would allow one to read all four gospels in a month. The slow reading pace of my 35 year old self could read 3 chapters in less than 30 minutes. Missing 30 minutes of a TV show will never rival what you gain by reading and internalizing the teachings of Jesus for half an hour a day. After all, I would say to my 35 year old self, those same Andy Griffith shows will still be running when you are my age!
I would also tell my 35 year old self that his memory will not be as sharp as he gets older so it would be a good practice to read and re-read these truths so they become ingrained as a lifestyle. A regular practice of this pattern of reading would allow one to read them 12 times in a year. By the time he is my age he will have read the gospels over 300 times. Wow, how that could change a life!
Well, we may not be able to go back and give ourselves good advice or counsel but it is not too late to follow the counsel of the one who still gives us eternal guidance. Let’s see what he has to say for today; hmmm, Matthew chapters one through three says…