The internet radio station I listen to at work is tuned in to a Celtic music station right now. Gaelic Storm, The Irish Rovers, The Chieftains, The Tossers, and a ton of people you’ve never heard of are on it. I have a few other stations on that site that are more contemporary stuff, pop and rock, that sort of thing.
Imagine my consternation, then, when I looked at the ad banner at the top of the web page and saw the words “Is a Walk-in Tub Right for You?” Seriously? How elderly do you think I am, internet radio website? Wait, don’t answer that.*
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, in the Old Testament the word could denote mere age or a formal position of leadership in a family, clan, village or larger unit of society.
We know that elder is a New Testament word as well, translated into English from the Greek presbutero. Here 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, though. 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) when 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, so 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, personally: me.
In both the church and my profession I hit leadership early. 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 more, I lost count). And in my legal career I’ve been on the bench for 17 1/2 years now, and hope to continue for another decade-plus. 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 work through me, equipping me and using me to do the work he has appointed for me.
I am so glad he not only created me to do good work (Ephesians 2:10), but works through me for his purposes. (Philippians 2:13.) And I know he can continue to do so even when I’m ready for a walk-in tub.
What about you: Has God given you opportunities to serve that you thought you weren’t ready for? What happened?
*Perhaps the fact I have a classical station and a Benny Goodman type station on that website played a part in the advertising directed my way, but honestly this is the first time I’ve seen old folks ads plastered across the top of my page. Oh well, 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.
P.S. All is well. The next day the station posted an ad inviting me to enroll in an online university to obtain a bachelor’s degree in “Game Art”. I’m not sure what that is, but I think it means they think I’m younger than I am. See, it all averages out.