The “you’re getting old” experiences are coming more and more frequently for me, it seems …
For instance, at the recent Virginia Synod Assembly Bishop Emeritus Virgil “Buck” Moyer was honored for his years of service to the church, and the special recognition was very well done. Bishop Moyer brought me into the Virginia Synod for my second call to a congregation, in 1983, just before my 30th birthday. For a man who will turn 92 soon, Bishop Moyer is doing extremely well. His mind is sharp. His voice is strong. The only sign of physical frailty is that he uses a cane, and that cane is a beauty! He held it up and said, “Bill Kinser carved this for me. I like to remember Bill when I use it, because he meant a great deal to me when I was Bishop.”
I immediately thought, “Oh yeah! Bill Kinser!” He was one of the well-respected, experienced, wise pastors of the Synod way back in 1983. Then I thought of others who I considered to be in the same category of giants among the Synod’s pastors back then: Bob Himmelman, Ken Price, John Byerly, Marshall Mauney, Al Kuhn. Over the years, several of those men were important mentors for me.
Then this was my next thought: “Wait. Now I’m the age that those “giants” were when I first came into the Synod.”
Do those pastors who are now 20 and 30-something years old think of me as I did of those pastors? I pray that might be true. I am deeply honored whenever a young adult calls or e-mails or facebooks me with a question that s/he would be asking a mentor — whether that young adult is in seminary, or already ordained, or even pursuing an entirely different calling of work that God has given him/her to do. That’s happened often enough that it no longer surprises me as it once did. Still, each time, I’m unsure that I have any wisdom that could be helpful. I always offer any response in a “for what it’s worth” kind of way.
But here’s something else I’ve been experiencing as I age. I often find myself enjoying conversations with 20 and 30-something year olds more than with many who are my age. I all the time find that I am receiving wisdom from them. I find that I’m energized by their perceptions of how God works in the world, and by their hopes for the future. And I have come to realize that they very much appreciate the fact that I value what they have to teach me. (I think young adults who are pastors usually find that older pastors patronize and even dismiss them. A more experienced pastor who does that is certainly not being wise!)
The only people who are fearful for the future are those who aren’t open to what young adults have to teach us.
The mentoring goes both ways, doesn’t it?