Now that summer is over and the children are back in school I found myself indulging in a little bit of retrospective thinking. It took some doing but I was able to think all the back to when I was a youngster and heading for school myself.
One of the things that struck me was some of the wonderful advice older people gave me at the time. The more I thought about this the more baffled I became. I must say during my lifetime I have received a great deal of advice from all kinds of people. Especially, when I was younger older people gave me plenty of advice.
Now the thing that bothers me is that, I cannot think of very many pieces of advice that has been helpful in my life. Sure, the advice was sincere but it has never made sense.
For example, my grandfather used to say, "A penny saved is a penny earned." In addition, he always used to say it with such a big smile on his face. At the time, I did not understand it and even today, I am a little confused by it. Of course, there is nothing more useless in the present economy than a penny.
I used to argue with him and say, "How can I save a penny if I haven't earned it yet?"
He would pat my knee very grandfatherly and say, "When you're older you'll understand."
Another favorite saying of my grandfather was, "A penny for your thought." And I always would respond by saying, "I'm sorry, but I'm saving that."
My father was fond of saying, "Son, keep your nose to the grindstone and you'll get ahead in life." Well if I did that, I might get ahead but without my nose. If I did not have a nose, what would I do if I had to sneeze? Furthermore, how would I keep my glasses on my face?
Like my grandfather, my father would simply say, "Son, you'll understand when you get older."
Well, I am older and I still do not understand.
Another piece of advice my father used to give me, "Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." I have followed this advice all my life and although I am healthy, the other two components are nowhere to be seen on the distant horizon of my future. I am suspicious, however, that the early to bed part was to get me out of his hair during the evening so he could watch TV.
The thing that really bothers me is that all these older people told me that when I got older I would be wiser. Now, the question I have is, how old is old? When do I arrive at that wise old man stage? And, how many horses are needed to pull it?
According to some people, I have arrived at that auspicious stage of being old. Yet I cannot see where I have become any wiser. Even the Gracious Mistress of the Parsonage has noticed this. She never misses anything except the one time she threw a coffee cup at me.
I forget what we were discussing, but she said something like this, "I would've thought someone your age would have known better."
I am really confused about all of this. To be truthful I have noticed that the older I get the more I discover I do not know. My fears are that if I get much older I will not know anything.
Perhaps it is all in the definition of wise.
To be sure, the older I get the better I am at wisecracks. I do not believe, however, that wisecracks have anything to do with being wise. If it did, then I am a celebrated sage.
Being a wisecracker may be a whole lot of fun but it sure can get you into a lot of trouble. Especially, with my better half. Why, just the other day she admonished me by saying, "Don't you get smart with me."
Now that has me all confused. I am supposed to get wiser and yet my wife forbids me to get any smarter. What's a man to do?
Where I am from, they have a saying, "We grow too soon old and too late smart." My fear is that I will arrive at my smart status the day after I die. Then what will I do?
If only I could slow down the process of getting older and speed up the process of getting smarter, I could enjoy my wise station in.
The problem is, I do not have to do anything to get old and the trouble associated with getting wise is astronomical. Talk about shooting for the moon!
The Bible has much to say about getting old. In fact, the Bible is in favor of it. The Bible compares our life as a tree planted in a well watered place.
"Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; To show that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him" (Psalms 92:13-15 KJV).
I have come to one conclusion. It is not getting older that makes one wise but resting in the wisdom of God.
The Rev. James L. Snyder is pastor of the Family of God Fellowship,