Is Proverbs just for the young? I don’t think so.
This passage reminds me of Psalm 1 because it is asking us to consider the same questions about our lives – even now when we are older.
In what direction are we walking and with whom?
The Road Less Travelled is not just for the young looking forward but for us looking back at our choices:
“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
But at any age we are constantly making choices about which road to travel and who we travel with. Who have we picked as companions?
Are we walking with people who encourage us to keep our eyes looking straight ahead and our gaze fixed on the light or people who are in deep darkness and stupid in their stumbling and swerving?
Who are we standing with?
Even if it seems we are standing with people who share good values we can be deceived. The people with whom we surround ourselves can make us part of a mob or part of a community. We can become people who tear down statues but just as easily people who protect the lies we have chosen to live with. Both are standing with the wrong people. Both are standing for the wrong values.
Solomon tells his son to guard his heart and that is to guard the values that guide his life. “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” But we are also told that the heart is deceitful above all things and that is the tension in which we live. How do we keep even our best values from deceiving us? It is often good values gone terribly wrong that turn people into monsters. Augustine called it disordered loves when our desire for what is good leads us in the wrong direction when our desires are out of control. Reformers become tyrants.
With whom are we sitting?
Most of us are sitting more now and watching. Who are spending time with? What kind of people are shaping our attitudes and our perspectives on the world. Is it Sean Hannity or Wolf Blitzer? Is it Bill Maher or Anne Coulter? Is it Rush Limbaugh or Joe Scarborough? Are we sitting with mockers?
We need to stay away from scoffers and those who enjoy demeaning others. It colors not just our minds and emotions but our spirits.
The power of association shapes us and so we need to be intentional in staying away from mockers and, instead, sitting with people of character and depth. That might mean sitting and reading instead of sitting and watching.
What people in our lives are turning us away from mockers toward wisdom and encouraging maturity? Even at our age we need to be growing the circle of people who stretch us and encourage us to grow. In isolation that is difficult but not impossible. We have a whole world of good influence available to us. We are only clicks away from the best teaching, literature, and wisdom the world has to offer.
We may not be as inclined to make new friends but we can make new influences in our lives. I did not discover John Gardner until my 50’s. I think I am just now far enough along in life to appreciate Shakespeare or Aristotle or G.K. Chesterton. It is only now that I understand King Lear, Hamlet or MacBeth. You could say it’s too late to make what they have to teach a part of your life when you are older. After all, isn’t the script pretty much written? I don’t think so. We are always growing and changing. In a sense, we have an obligation to continue growing and stretching.
“The self-renewing man never feels that he has “arrived.” – John Gardner
Who is our example as we grow older?
Caleb: At 80 he asked for a challenge he wanted when he was half his age. He wanted a new generation of giants.
John: On Patmos he wrote the book of Revelation. He was given a vision of the world to come.
Gideon: In the pride of old age he built a shrine that led Israel astray and caused them to prostitute themselves.
Simeon and Anna: They had been waiting all their lives to see the Messiah. They were faithful.
Jacob: His last words were those of blessing his family for generations to come.
I love Ray Stedman’s teaching on the Old Testament character Enoch.
“Twice in that verse it is recorded of Enoch the supremely important thing about this man: he walked with God. But it’s also recorded that he didn’t always walk with God. For the first 65 years of his life, his life was no different than those around him.
For 65 years he went along with the rest of his world, and then suddenly a change occurred. Perhaps you’re thinking it was that he began to draw his social security payments at the age of 65. But I doubt very seriously if that’s what’s involved here, for the scriptures suggest a far more radical and revolutionary change that took place. After the first 65 years of this man’s life there came a circumstance which caused him to turn right around. It was a right about-face, a dramatic change. In the midst of the same world given over to culture and art and mechanics, and so on, this man began to no longer walk with the world, but to walk with God. And for the next 300 years it’s recorded of him, as the supreme value of his life that he walked with God.”
With whom are we walking and in what direction? With whom are we standing? With whom are we sitting? Who will we resemble as we grow older?