“What kind of advice can I offer you? I’m younger than you.”
My friend’s reflection resonates with many younger folks in ministry. In essence it asks, “Can young people offer wisdom to those who are (much) older than themselves?” That question haunts many young pastors and ministers as they wrestle with their vocation. Whether or not Timothy was in his mid-twenties or early thirties (some think he was in his forties), this age demographic clings onto 1 Timothy 4:12 with their dear life. I find myself in this lot, too. In addition to Timothy’s exhortation, we might also encourage one another that (s)he is seminary trained, and therefore has acquired a particular knowledge in biblical interpretation or other skill sets which have helped equip us for the challenge and task that lies before us.
But what about wisdom?
In college, I remember one of my professors inviting our class to brainstorm and define wisdom. We differentiated between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge was reduced to acquired information, facts, or skills, whereas wisdom appeared to be a type of knowledge that was acquired mostly through experience. We collegians might have knowledge, but the people with white or gray hair were usually the ones who had acquired wisdom.
But can one with little or no white hair impart wisdom to the one whose head is full of it?
As I inch towards 30, I am not as terrified about aging as many of my contemporaries. I know that though my body may be wasting away, inwardly I’m being renewed day by day (2 Cor 4:16). I no longer possess the 18-year old physique. If I play an hour of basketball, I’m sore for three days.
Nevertheless, I’m getting to know the Lord more day by day. I’m learning that as I progress down this path of life, my journey of experiences is helping shape me into one who possesses more wisdom. Moreover, I’m discovering that wisdom can often be found near scars.
Growing up, I played competitive basketball throughout the year. I was prone to injuring my face. After a few trips to the hospital (broken nose, two busted eyes, busted cheek, and chin), my dad told me, “Cole, I think you are putting your face in the wrong places.” He put into words what I was becoming all too aware of through my experiences.
One of the injuries that I acquired was in the 7th grade county championship game. I was going after a ball full steam and a guy fouled me resulting in my chin slamming against the hardwood. I experienced a little pain, then placed my hand under my chin to find my hand covered in blood. This required a few stitches, and a scar formed underneath my chin. Surprisingly, as I progressed in age, no hair would grow out of the scar. Sporting a beard for the past several years, there have been more than a few occasions in which someone points out the “bald” spot. I, then, rehash the story. But over the past year, I’ve noticed something else taking place: as white hairs are starting to be sprinkled into my auburn hair, a patch of white has begun to form near the scar.
This white patch in the midst of a scar has led me to reflect on wisdom. As we live life and run full speed, we are going to be fouled by this lost and broken world. It might result in pain or hurt, but if you take yourself to the Doctor there will be healing. Scars will form. If true healing sets in, you will forgive, but you won’t forget.
When I first learned about how deaf persons sign Jesus Christ, I cried. They put their pointer finger into the middle of the palms of each hand going back and forth from one hand to the other. The symbolic gesture is hugely important, because it highlights that the risen, glorified Savior decided to reveal himself to his disciples by showing them his hands and his side, i.e., his scars (see John 20). The resurrected Lord is the crucified Lord, the one who went to the cross in order that we might have life. His scars do not disappear despite being in a glorified state.
But there’s more. Jesus, Wisdom incarnate, commissions his followers with this threefold mandate in John 20:19-23:
1) As the Father sends me, so I send you;
2) Receive the Holy Spirit;
3) Forgive sins and they will be forgiven; retain them and they will be retained.
The Lord is commissioning us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to go out into the lost and broken world whereby we will surely incur hurtful wounds and subsequent scars. In those places, we will be able to share the sufferings (Phil 3:10-11) and forgiveness of the Crucified One, and with Paul say, “ I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
Through time and faithfulness to the Lord, you may also be able to share Paul’s words, potentially to those who look down their noses at your age, and say “From now on let no one cause trouble for me, for I bear on my body the scars of Jesus” (Gal 6:17; cf. 2 Cor 6:4–6; 11:23–30).
Brother and sisters, may we bear the marks of Christ and share the loving forgiveness of the Crucified One, and in doing so grow in wisdom and stature.