Yesterday I hosted a reunion for some Bible college friends from my undergrad years. We shared stories that only old and dear friends can enjoy. We also laughed and had some near-to-tears moments.
But what have we learned over the years? Two things stand out. Humility. And values.
Let me start with the values. Years ago we experienced life as pure potential. We were fit, bright, energetic, and confident. We had secret self-doubts and the normal poverty of youth yet we were sure we would make a difference. We expected to find great spouses, raise wonderful kids, and to have a satisfying life. As Christians we were sure God would bless us big time.
Now we’re old. And that’s a notice to any young readers: life goes by so much faster than you expect it to. You’ll be old before you blink … which isn’t so bad in light of eternity. But it’s a surprise. In reaching forty you’ll try to live as if you’re nearer to twenty. Then in hitting sixty you’ll find that doors for change are mostly closed. At this stage lots of people have lost both your address and phone number.
So the passage of time changes values—we move beyond what we offer to others and start to treasure those who love us even if we don’t offer much in return. It’s the faithful friends we treasure. We also stop valuing “stuff”—all the things that get rusty, obsolete, broken, stolen, or lost. We learn that things and places we once owned actually own us—with perpetual upgrades, maintenance, and payments due. So the value of simplicity and honest love displaces the selfish comforts and status-climbing of our earlier days.
One real value that emerges with age is truth. The longer we lived in an overhyped world—where deep truth-telling is rare—the more weary, wary, discouraged and cynical we became. So God’s truth came to represent a unique treasure. As Christians our little group agreed that what we’ve learned from Scriptures has made all the difference. It really is more satisfying to give than to receive. It really is more fulfilling to count others more important than self. And a life rich with the fruit of the Spirit is vastly better than a life of chasing the fruit of the flesh.
And that brings us to humility. We really are like flowers that quickly bloom and soon wilt. Boxes we could once lift are now too heavy. Problems we once solved now stump us. We discover that to be human is to be frail and flawed. We start to tire of new devices, newer and better systems, bigger and faster products. And with that we start to see how simple and ordinary we are. We haven’t made much of a mark after all. Some of us didn’t marry well, and others didn’t marry at all. Our children have been mixed stories—some are fine but others are pretty messy. And still others have children who never became adults. It hasn’t all been easy. Friends and family had too many divorces and some even left the faith along the way.
But the sweet fruit of humility is also a discovery that comes best with age. Once we realized we didn’t really have any prospect of helping God succeed in being God we found a bit of the peace that passes understanding. We get to relax at last and finally hear the Spirit whispering to us in the quiet moments of spiritual rest. We finally understand that even though God never needs us, he’s never ceased to love us. And he loves others through us—as a gift beyond measure.
So it was a good reunion: reflective and satisfying. And we came away trusting Jesus more than ever—even as we left some of our old values and early pride at the front door. God is still good, and the Way, the Truth, and the Life is still our most profound value.