Have you ever thought about why we consider some people wise? I think one reason is because they have lived enough of life to be able to learn from the good decisions they’ve made as well as the bad.
I was questioning myself recently concerning writing. Do I always want to be seen as one who constantly talked about past events? Does that make me live too much in the past?
Does talking about the past mean I’m not living in the present?
About the same time, I was reading a book by Elisabeth Elliot. Her book was called, Discipline, which is rich in itself, but is just one of many of her works. If anyone could be called wise, it would be Elliot. In the 1950s, she served as a missionary to Ecuador with her first husband, Jim. He was killed just a few years into their marriage and service by the people among whom they served.
She not only returned to serve there after his death, but became a prolific author, married twice more (her second husband also died), and was a well-known speaker. As I read her book and thought about her life, I came to realize that I was not the only one who drew upon the past to talk about the present. When people wrote her letters and asked for advice, she spoke wisdom based on how God had worked in her own life over the years.
I found such comfort in her writing. That’s when I realized it:
Writing backwards is my way of sharing the past to help those in the future.
I asked myself again if writing about the past kept me there, and my answer was no. I’m very happy in my present, where God has me. Despite loss of my husband, despite the end of an overseas career in missions, despite an empty nest, I am at peace in the here and now.
I can write about the past with a sense of excitement, because I’ve learned that God can use my experiences to encourage others in the things they are facing or will face in life and ministry.
Now that I think about it, this is nothing new (though I really knew it wasn’t anyway). Just reflecting on the sermon of Stephen in the book of Acts, he retells the history of the people of Israel to make a point for the present in which he was living.
Jesus did the same during that sermon on the mount, when he reminded those listening that they had “heard that it was said.” The Law said one thing, he was telling them something amazingly new to complete that Law.
The next time an older person repeats a story of the past, don’t roll your eyes, but ask what that story may have to say to your story today or in the future. Wisdom is not just to be shared but to be applied.
Grace and Peace