A colleague and I were talking about our early years in ministry and I said, “When I was starting ministry at age 29 I had the sense that I was too young to have credibility. Plato said to be a philosopher you had to be 50, so I remember wanting to be 50.”
He laughed and said, “And you still do!”
Goldilocks tasted the three bowls of porridge – one was too cold, the other too hot and one was just right. The same with the chairs and the bed – only one was just right.
Forty years ago the mantra of the counter-culture was, “Don’t trust anyone over 30!” What’s the just-right age now? Does the mere accumulation of years make one a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, as the word suggests…a true teacher?
Recently I discovered a little poem by Robert Browning Hamilton he called ‘Along the Road.’
I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chattered all the way,
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
and ne’er a word said she;
But oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me.
It’s not about the number of years we’ve lived, but the depth of the days, the degree of compassion that we’ve experienced, the ability to walk with sorrow, to have endured the disappointments and losses, to have adjusted to the changes along the way.
In his book The Wounded Healer, Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen put it this way: “Nobody escapes being wounded. We are all wounded people, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually. The main question is not ‘How can we hide our wounds?’ so we don’t have to be embarrassed, but ‘How can we put our woundedness in the service of others?’ When our wounds cease to be a source of shame, and become a source of healing, we have become wounded healers.”
Some of our bandages are visible, there for all to see. Some are covered up with colorful costumes, hidden, either bye a sense of embarrassment, shame or modesty. But Nouwen is right, ‘nobody escapes being wounded.’
To be a philosopher, then, or true teacher, have compassion for those with whom you share a portion of the journey, even if it’s a fleeting moment going through the supermarket check-out, or a lifetime of committed relationship.
I hope you’re well, and look forward to seeing you again, soon.